Dogs, historically, served mankind as guards, police and service dogs, and, of course, as “man’s best friend.” But, not often recognized, they too punched their ticket as “Soldiers.”
Author Gareth Crocker allows us to experience the dedication and heroics of these animals in his novel, Finding Jack. Fletcher Carson is the primary character who has a death wish. After losing his family in a tragic aircraft crash, he loses his will to live. Circumstance provides him the “opportunity” to volunteer for Vietnam, certainly not from patriotism, but perhaps a way to end his life.
Not until he finds, “Jack,” a wounded, starving Labrador does Fletcher think of staying alive. Fletcher finds Jack on a combat mission, wandering deep in the Vietnam jungle. He makes friends with Jack and wants to keep the mongrel.
Not knowing whether the dog was trained as friend or foe, Carson’s Lieutenant denies his request to keep Jack and orders the dog killed. Carson pleads with the Platoon Leader to keep the dog. The Leader, reluctantly, agrees with stipulations.
Upon returning to base camp, Fletcher goes out of his way to get help to nurse the dog back to health. The dog soon becomes a reliable team member.
As the Vietnam War winds down, soldiers are ordered out of the country. But many of the war dogs are classified as “surplus, unessential military equipment,” and ordered abandoned, euthanized or left with the South Vietnamese. It was a surprising, dishonorable ruling for military dog handlers.
Carson Fletcher unwilling to leave Jack behind fights to stay in Vietnam determined to find a way to get him out. He treks over 350 miles through Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, where he is captured and loses Jack.
“Finding Jack,” is based on actual events. It is an excellent, emotional read. The fact is that 200 dogs, serving in Vietnam, returned “home,” but 4,000 combat dog partners, were left behind. Indeed, a sad chapter in America’s military working dog history. To find out whether Jack makes it back, you must read the book.
Gareth Crocker got the inspiration for his novel after meeting an old soldier at the Vietnam War Memorial, placing a dog harness at the foot of the “Vietnam Wall.” When questioned, the Veteran, openly weeping, tells Crocker of having to leave his beloved dog behind “… how do you leave your best friend behind?”