Veteran Monty Slough wanted to make sure that both Vietnam veterans and the dogs who helped veterans in all wars won’t be forgotten.
Slough, who was a dog handler during the Vietnam War, has worked with engraver Monty Naylor for more than two years to build a walk of honor at Spc. Ernest W. Dallas Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in far southeastern Denton. The concrete path links to the rail trail and contains more than 20 pedestals, most of which honor individual Denton County service members who fell in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But on Monday, parks employees installed a pair of plaques closer to a new monument for fallen soldiers. One plaque remembers all who fell in the Vietnam War and another remembers fallen war dogs.
Slough advocated first for the park to be named for Spc. Dallas, who was the first Denton resident to die in the Iraq War. It was dedicated to him in 2011.
“It’s for any member of the family to come and be close to their [soldier’s] honor,” Slough said. “I want them to be able to come and see the picture and feel the pride in their service.”
As city parks employees Jason Donnell and Patrick Bopp made last-minute adjustments to the pedestals that would hold the two new plaques, the work was a little more personal for Slough.
“I’m fortunate because I know the fate of my dog,” Slough said, adding that hasn’t been the case for many Vietnam vets who were also dog handlers.
His dog, Brandi, was a German shepherd trained to detect land mines. She had been working with another handler when she was assigned to Slough in 1970. During the Vietnam War, military leaders wouldn’t let dogs go home with their handlers.
“If they weren’t shell-shocked, they would go to a different handler,” Slough said.
Brandi was protective of Slough and wouldn’t let anyone near him when he slept. One soldier didn’t get the message, Slough said, and she bit him badly. For about two years, they would go out ahead of the rest of the infantry in the jungle. If Brandi detected a trip wire or land mine, she would stop, turn around and sit.
One day, their unit took fire. Slough was one of just three men in his unit that survived the attack. He was carried out of the field on a makeshift cot of a poncho and tree limbs. Brandi was still at his side. She lay down on his legs as he was airlifted away in a helicopter.
Slough was badly injured and Brandi was shell-shocked. Both were re-assigned.
“It hurts that I never saw her again,” Slough said.
Back then, the dogs were considered equipment and he didn’t know where records were kept. When he could, he would fly to various places and look for her in the cemeteries. Years went by before he learned what became of his companion. When he got a tip on how to find the records, he learned her fate: Brandi, K17K, was shot and had died in a firefight at Da Nang.
Today, dogs are considered soldiers, too, Slough said. The first national monument for war dogs was built with private donations and dedicated Oct. 28 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Since 1958, a center at Lackland has trained dogs for all military branches. The San Antonio sculpture features four dog breeds used since World War II, including the Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois.