We landed at Tan Son Nhut AB (December 1966) the following day after the attack by the VC. In our group we had 50 Dogs and handlers. Our escort was also a Sentry Dog Handler who sustained a wrist injury from a slap flare that blew up in his hand. After we quartered and secured the dogs he took us on tour where I saw an Army Tank that continued to burn at the perimeter. Security was tight and and we were told to move back and away from the perimeter as they believed that the VC had snipers in place as they had random incoming rounds. As we came back to the kennel area I saw this dog (who was mad as hell) and had an eye missing and was bloody. I later learned that his name was “Nimo” and that his handler was wounded during the fire fight with the VC. I never forgot him and many years later I saw him on TV where he was exiting from the rear of a C-130 where he landed and disembarked. He was “Retired” and lived out the rest of his life at Lackland AFB. Of interest an “Eye Doctor” came by to visit him and observed that Nimo would look in the opposite direction and it appeared to him that he (Nimo) was ashamed or didn’t want anyone to see his missing eye. The doctor volunteered his services and gave Nimo an artificial eye and not long after that Nimo was like a new dog.
I honor these service dogs just as much as I honor my fellow veterans. When I saw the story of the Navy SEALS that shot Osama Ben Ladin and of the Service Dog who was also there I was so “PROUD” knowing I had a connection. Not a physical one but “Spiritually” for a better lack of word.
One of my most memorable days was after we had incoming rockets and mortars. I was already on duty and when the incoming started I had no place for cover as we were at the perimeter so we layed down and I covered my dog with my body but the rounds hit within the base area. The Augmentee’s (Base Personnel who are trained to fire their M-16’s but no combat training) dispersed along certain portions of the perimeter and some were directly behind me. As day light broke the all clear was given. As we walked off post the rain came down but as I looked inwards and away from the perimeter I could see the Augmentee’s as they looked at us and some pointed in our direction. I was tired, wet, muddy but when I saw these guys I walked with pride and for the first time I stood proud along with my dog “Koenig.”
Many of those Aumentee’s remembered me and they said they wished they could be a Sentry Dog Handler and admired the fact that we were out in the open when the mortars and rockets hit and we stood our ground. Some saw us as we walked the perimeter along with our dogs. We were the “First Line of Defense” for the entire base. Later that same year I was transferred to Pleiku AB and left Koenig behind where a new handler took him over and sadly Koenig was killed by friendly fire. When I got the news I was devastated as we had spent close to a year as one. We went though Combat Training and spent close to 5 months State side duty prior to deployment.
Hope I didn’t say too much.