Dennis Alexander served as a K9 handler at Da Nang Air Base

Hometown Heroes

COLEMAN, Wis. (WFRV) Dennis Alexander and dogs go hand-in-hand, all the way back to 1967 when he enlisted with the Air Force with hopes of becoming a military policeman.

“When Vietnam was going on, those were the guys, mostly, that went to Vietnam,” he said.

Dennis was eventually sent over to Da Nang Air Base.

“They had me sitting in these towers. I said, ‘boy this is really stupid, sitting up here like a sitting duck.’ [Then] I saw these guys walking dogs around. It was pretty cool,” he said.

Within two weeks, Dennis was out of the tower and on the ground as a K9 handler.

“We had a kennel there with about 50 dogs,” he said.

Dennis was later assigned to his dog, with quite an interesting name.

“The people that donated him were from Marblehead, Massachusetts, so guess what they named him? Marblehead!” he said. “But he was a very good dog. Very alert, never went to sleep.”

Dennis, Marblehead and the other dogs and handlers were there to protect the base. They would also go out on patrols if needed. All of this was mostly done at night because the dogs could see, hear and smell things much faster than anyone else.

“We had attacks pretty much on a regular basis,” Dennis said.

He added that the dogs would perk up and become much more alert if they saw something that didn’t seem right.

Dennis would leave Vietnam after 16 months due to a family emergency, but kept one moment in particular with him. He came across the base morgue that he says was the size of a gym.

“With all these tables, [and a] body on every table. These morticians were going through the bags and pulling out pieces and parts,” he said.

Dennis didn’t talk about his experience for about 40 years.

“When you keep those demons locked up for that long, it gets pretty bad,” he explained. “That visits me a lot, often. Those are the guys that are the heroes.”

Thanks to help from his friends, family and the VA, Dennis recently opened up about his story and says talking about it is his best therapy. He is now retired and lives happily with his wife and two dogs – Bella and Mika.

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