LIFE IS GOOD! I'm retired, living on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, nothing to do but go fishing, soak up some rays, or just kick back and relax…not me, I've got one last mission.
When people learn that I was a dog handler in Vietnam one of the questions I'm frequently asked is, what did your dog mean to you? I pull a picture of Geisha out of my wallet that I've carried for 42 years. That picture and the emotion in my voice gives me away every time.
My father was an Army Air Corps aircraft dispatcher and was in the control tower at Hickam Field, Pearl Harbor Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941, the day that will live in infamy. He was one of the first Americans to see the Japanese Zeroes fly in to attack the Pacific Fleet. He survived the attack because the control tower was a landmark for the enemy planes to fly off of. He was a hero that day doing everything he could to alert the post to the attack and get defensive aircraft airborne. I followed my dad's path enlisting in the Air Force in 1967.
My route to becoming a dog handler was definitely different than any other that I have encountered. After basic training I was sent as a security policeman to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and assigned to a law enforcement squadron. Being sent anywhere stateside when we were a nation at war was fine by me. I worked the base entry gates and drove a patrol car for about eight months before a message came down requesting two volunteers to go to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for Sentry Dog training. I wasn't interested at the time and didn't think any more about it. The 30 day time limit expired and there weren't any takers. It wasn't long before I went to my mail box and found orders to go to Sentry Dog School, I had just volunteered! It would prove to be a life-saving and life-changing experience. I handled Geisha (A871) in Vietnam, she and I were partners for one year but she's lived in my heart for the last 40 years. I felt safe when I was out on patrol with her because I knew she would die to protect me. For years I have promoted the military working dogs service to our country to anyone who would listen. I have always felt that they deserved recognition for their devotion and sacrifice, who better to lead the effort than veteran handlers.
In 2008 I joined the JBMF team. Every member of the team is dedicated to do whatever is needed to make our dream come true, and that is ultimate recognition for military working dogs past, present and future. When I'm not performing my team responsibilities I spend some time helping my brother and sister-in-law at Paradise House their tropical import store in Rockport.
Supporters, endorsements and donations were the team's immediate need. I had developed a friendship with Joe Bonsall the tenor in the legendary country music group The Oak Ridge Boys. When I contacted Joe and told him about the project he let me know that the Oaks were behind the effort 100%. They were the first celebrities to publicly endorse the Monument.