Visual Stories

Photos: Vietnam veteran bonds with his service dog

In 1970, Mike Gervell finished serving his second tour of duty in the Vietnam War. With an honorable discharge, he returned to his hometown of Anchorage and found a job scooping ice cream.

Gervell was just 20 years old. Ever since, he has lived a solitary life.

"My whole life I never needed nothing," he said. "Depended on myself pretty much."

Four and a half decades passed in a quiet struggle for Gervell. After he retired in 2011 from a career in air cargo, his daily life narrowed. He spent most of his time in his house. Meals from the Taco Bell or McDonald's drive-through. Grocery shopping at 3 a.m. to avoid crowds. He slept four or five hours a night, with night terrors startling him awake.

Then, in February, a dog opened his world.

Read more: How a service dog opened an Alaska veteran's world