Embrace A Veteran: Vietnam vet reflects on near-death experience, how rescue dog gives him hope

Vietnam vet reflects on near-death experience, how rescue dog gives him hope

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Vietnam veteran who survived a deadly attack now gets hope from his service dog, Lucy.

Lucy is good at grabbing keys and even a cellphone. She also came to the rescue of disabled veteran Brion Smith.

"It's unbelievable; it's unbelievable. Other than that, I would have nobody. I would just sit here," Smith said.

Smith got Lucy five years ago through the Canine Angels program. The two bonded at first glance.

Before he got his four-legged companion, Smith's struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder left him with depression and even kept him from leaving the house at times.

"Now I can go out and go to the store. I know I've got my lifesaver with me. She was a shelter dog, her life was saved, so I guess we were meant for each other," Smith said.

Lucy provides distractions from the memories of war and loss during Smith's two years in Vietnam with the Army 9th Infantry Division 2nd of the 4th Artillery.

"Going into the Tet Offensive, into Saigon, and watching the kids and the women and the rounds coming in and no parameters set up and our guys coming in on personnel carriers dead, being put in body bags and laying there waiting for choppers to come in and get them," Smith said. "And it had to be quick, with the bodies you know in the bags, and yeah, I dream about that a lot."

Those nightmares are even more vivid when thinking about the time he escaped death. Smith said he was supposed to get on a truck to go into town, along with his two comrades. One of them told him he could not join, because his first sergeant wanted to see him.

"You know what … there was plenty of room because it was three-quarter ton truck," Smith said. "I have no idea why he did that."

That misinformation saved his life. The truck was hit and blew up, killing both of his comrades.

"I should have been in the driver's seat and that's in my mind all the time," Smith said. "I dream about that, flashbacks about that all the time."

The two he lost were hardly his only losses in Vietnam.

"A lot of friends yes sir, yes sir. Some I went with basic training through and we went all the way through and they never made it home," Smith said.

When Smith returned home, as was the case with many Vietnam veterans, the reception was less than ideal.

"They said do not go into the restrooms by yourself, stay in a group, try to ignore what is being said to you because they are going to entice you to fight," he said.

Despite the adversity, despite nearly losing his life and seeing the loss of his friends, Smith has never forgotten his country. It was the same country his father served while in the Navy.

"I know what it's done to me emotionally, mentally and so on, but I would do it again to protect this country," he said. "I'm glad I went and I'm glad I did what I did, and I would never want to see it here. Our troops who are serving every day, I pray for them every night."

The accolades and awards remind him of his service. Then there's Lucy, who reminds him there is life after nearly facing death.

"She's it. If I didn't have her I don't know, don't know. I don't know," Smith said.

Smith is so proud of his 6-year-old shepherd-husky rescue, he entered her in the American Humane Hero Dog Award competition, with a win going to charity. Click here to learn more.

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