FORT DRUM — Unable to move after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last August, Spc. Alec Alcoser was more worried about the condition of his battle buddy, Alex, than himself.
The Fort Drum soldier immediately looked over to the 9-year-old German Shepherd to see how he was doing. And Alex intuitively laid down next to him and remained by his side while Spc. Alcoser was getting treated.
“My buddy, I didn’t want to lose him,” he said, trying not to cry.
Alex lost his right hind leg in the blast. Spc. Alcoser broke all four of his extremities, suffered a traumatic brain injury and ended up with shrapnel throughout his body.
He’s still recovering after undergoing nearly 20 surgeries at Walter Reed Hospital and several other Army hospitals since it happened. Shrapnel remains in 30 percent of his body.
He has one more surgery to go.
“Nothing major,” he said during an interview on post on Wednesday.
He doesn’t exactly know what kind of treatment Alex had to go through in the ensuing months, nor does he want to know.
He’s just relieved that he and his battle buddy are reunited. Alex is now retired from military duty. The Fort Drum soldier recently received news that Alex is his — he officially has adopted him, after signing three documents that made it a done deal, Spc. Alcoser said.
“I felt great,” he said. “It was like he was actually coming home.”
On Wednesday, Alex was wearing a collar with his tag number, Alex T365, a camouflage vest that proudly displayed the Purple Heart and other awards that Spc. Alcoser received for his time in battle, and, in turn, that he gave to his buddy.
The soldier and his dog got a hero’s welcome when he got back on Feb. 11 to Fort Drum, the post where he was assigned in 2016. He was greeted by applause and cheers from about 300 soldiers from the 91st Military Police Battalion.
“I walked through a door to applause,” he said.
While he was talking about his ordeal, Brig. Gen. Gregory K. Anderson, Fort Drum’s deputy commanding general, support, stopped by to welcome him back to Fort Drum.
“I’m really proud of you,” the general said. “I’m proud of the both of you.”
Brig. Gen. Anderson offered to help both of them in any way they need. He also told him that Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, will come to see him during the next few days.
Spc. Alcoser was about six months into his first deployment in Afghanistan when he was injured in the suicide bombing.
He remembered walking with the bomb-sniffing dog when a man approached him and the others on patrol that day outside Bagram Airfield that day.
He turned to warn the others when the suicide bomb — consisting of fishing lure, glass and nails — went off, throwing him onto his back. They were ambushed and a fire fight ensued.
“And then the world turned upside down,” he said.
Three of his friends, three Czech soldiers, were killed in the fight.
Alex let out a yelp but did not bark. He was bleeding, so Spc. Alcoser grabbed for his medical pouch and applied gauze to the dog’s wounds, while he, too, was getting treatment.
Alex remained conscious throughout the incident. He wouldn’t allow anyone near the soldier, even biting a medic.
But Alex has since recovered. Despite losing a leg, the German Shepherd likes to run and play ball. He’s got a gentle, calm nature, his owner said.
“Mostly, this is it,” Spc. Alcoser said, pointing down at a mellow Alex, laying down while his owner was interviewed by a small group of reporters.
Next week, Spc. Alcoser and Alex will be leaving Fort Drum — a place that he’ll always remember — and head to Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, Texas, where he grew up.
He wants to continue his career in the Army. Despite what happened to him, he’d still like to see combat again.
“I have two years left in my contract,” he said. “But, hopefully, I get to do a full 20.”