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BY: ALEX ASHLOCK
The Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Worcester is in a beautiful setting at the foot of a hill in Green Hill Park. The names of more than 1,500 military members who either died or remain missing from the war are engraved there. But there’s also a special monument to the dogs who worked as sentries or scouts in the jungles of Vietnam. The inscription on the stone reads: “In honor of the devotion, service and sacrifice of the 4,000 war dogs and their handlers who served in Vietnam 1965-1975.”
On a recent rainy Saturday, when the monument was being rededicated on its 10th anniversary I met one of those dog handlers. His name is Alan Driscoll.
Serving In Vietnam With A German Shepherd By His Side
Driscoll was in the Air Force and he served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 with a German Shepherd named Dutchess.
“I volunteered for the canine work in Vietnam,” he told me. “I knew they were short of handlers and literally got introduced to her by someone saying there’s the dog, it’s in the kennel go in and get it. She was a great dog, wonderful scout dog and I developed a real good working relationship with her during the year or so I was there.”
The job for Alan and Dutchess was patrolling alone in the heavy jungle until they ran into the enemy. Then Alan would make a radio call before going after the North Vietnamese. He tells the story of one particularly close call for him:
“We were involved in December of 1966, which was a pre-Tet attack, but it was the first time that Air Force security forces had been involved in combat since Korea,” he said. “I believe there were about 50 or 60 North Vietnamese soldiers killed. We lost a handler and two or three dogs that night. One in particular George Bevich who was probably the first Air Force canine person killed. George radioed in and said he could see them and that he was attacking and that was the last we heard of George.”
A Letter To President Lyndon Johnson
On July 25, 1966, George Bevich, who was from Summit Hill, Pa., had written a letter to President Lyndon Johnson. “Mr. President I’m a sentry dog handler and I’m very proud to be doing the work I’m doing,” he writes. “A few days ago I went to the hospital to visit a friend of mine. Then I saw all our boys in those beds, but not one of them complained that they were doing the wrong thing.”
Alan Driscoll is devoted to keeping the memory of men like George Bevich and their dogs alive. Today he’s the president of an organization called K9s of the War on Terror. The group’s mission is to honor the dogs who have served in the military and in law enforcement since the September 11 attacks. He wants a national monument for them and is trying to find a site for it. The organization is also offering a medal to dogs who have demonstrated exceptional acts since 2001. “Every other country honors its war dogs with a medal, ours doesn’t, and we’ve taken the approach that they need to be,” he said. “There need to be something that’s tangible, that shows that dog amounted to something other than a picture of a guy and the dog and somebody saying it’s Sgt. so and so with his dog. The dog’s an individual. It has a name and it’s our intention to recognize that.”
By the way, that memorial is in the design stage. It features a soldier and his German Shepherd. The model for the dog is Baro, a retired military dog who lives now with Alan Driscoll.