What inspired Follow His Lead
Years ago, I was watching the news and a very short video grabbed me and never let go. It showed a K-9 police officer sprinting across someone's front yard carrying his mortally-wounded German Shepherd. He was in a frantic dash for his squad car, and the raw emotions of the handler, at that moment, stayed with me. Several years later, I learned about the special skills of scout dogs in Vietnam and felt the need to one day bring to life a story that could communicate that deep bond between a handler and his dog.
Why This Story
During the late 1960s and 1970s, troops returning from Vietnam were mistreated by the American public. Some 50 years later, they seem to be earning more respect for their service. But is it truly enough?
There are hundreds of true stories about courageous scout, tracker, tunnel and sentry dogs and their equally brave handlers in Vietnam. It is hoped this book will illuminate how important these special dogs were to saving our young troops. These dedicated, four-legged heroes helped protect so many lives, but nearly all were left behind at the end of the war. Many handlers claim their dogs taught them more than they could ever teach their dogs. This story shares how the process of healing can take place in even the most unforgiveable of places.
When the military decided to leave behind about 2,700 dogs with the South Vietnamese Army and euthanize 1,600 trained dogs used to support American troops in Vietnam, there were no formal organizations in America to object or provide solutions. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Robby’s Law, signed in 2000 by President Clinton, requires that all military working dogs suitable for adoption be brought back and placed with law enforcement or their handler. In some cases, these dogs are adopted by private citizens.
Today, trained dogs are used not only to support members of our Armed Forces in the field but also those who return from action. They provide both companionship and routine support to those suffering from PTSD and other debilitating wounds. They can even sense when a mental breakdown is coming on and redirect their master’s attention in ways dogs in the field would nudge a soldier away from a trip line or booby trap. Many dogs assist veterans by waking them out of nightmares or steering them away from uncomfortable situations such as crowds or other frightening hazards that most of us can ignore.
A secondary purpose for this book was to share stories of bravery. Those who served in Vietnam were just as brave as the heroes who served our country prior to and after this war. In earlier conflicts, soldiers often knew where their enemy was located and could prepare accordingly. In Vietnam, our soldiers were faced with fighting a hidden adversary. The vast majority of our fallen troops fell victim to battlefield ghosts that would vanish soon after their bullets left their weapons. Living in constant fear, in a way most of us could never imagine, led some of our troops to experiment with substances to find a way to cope.
Tragically, the veteran’s reward for survival was empty homecomings as they stepped off planes and back onto American soil. Media coverage leaned heavily on ending the war in hopes of reducing the loss of young lives, but it effectively demonized those who served our government and our country. Anti-war sentiments back home led many troops to question their role in this “police action.” It has taken many decades for much of the American public to provide these veterans the respect they deserve. People can now show their appreciation every March 29th, recently recognized as National Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day.
A final purpose for this book was to share many of the lessons learned over a lifetime of experiences as the son of an Episcopal minister. While he did not perish while I was in college, he did fall victim to a severe case of leukemia that took his life only four days after diagnosis. For three decades, my father studied Life After Death cases and found the similarities of their stories so fascinating that he began sharing his research with others. Though only 76 years of age, he was well prepared for his journey home.