Dennis' Story

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Dennis' Story

Donation Goal


My name is Dennis Rigel. I was drafted into the military and went to Fort Dodge where I ended up in the Army. Then I went to Fort Bliss, Texas for basic training. I went to Fort Huachuca in Arizona and that's where I took my AIT – what you do after basic training. I was there for, I don't know how long, and then I was sent to Fort Lee, Viginia and I lived in Hopewell, Virginia with my first wife. After my son was born, I was shipped to Vietnam in March of 1969. I was sent to a site and stationed at Qui Nhon, where I never worked my MOS. Then I was put with one of the guys from 101st Airborne and worked with him on security, fying on a transport helicopter and running into villages around us looking for the enemy. I fixed lights on the perimeter, got shot at and we did a lot of traveling by jeep. Never went to safer places; turns out none of them were safe. One of the villages we went to – next day it was wiped out.

Life after military

It was rough with my first wife, we ended up divorcing. Raised 3 boys by myself, then I met my second wife. We had a girl together. Times were tough because I went back to school and it was tough to do school with some of the effects that I had. But I knew I had to do it to better myself. I was kind of a loner because I did everything mostly alone, by choice because I had depression, but with my wife helped a lot with that. In 2005 I had surgery for cancer and was treated afterward for 10 years because they didn't get it all. The treatments ended up doing more harm than good. In February of 2016, we sold our house to my daughter and remodeled everything. We lived in the lower level for two weeks and then my wife passed away. After that, my depression was very evident. I've never been checked for PTSD but a friend of mine who has it… we have a lot of the same symptoms.


I met [a RFI trainer] at Rydell Chevrolet buying a car and we talked and he told me to come up to RFI. I starting coming up regularly in January 2018 and went through 4 classes. I started by volunteering to take professional photos of the students and their dogs. I have learned a lot through the classes. I came to try to see what the dogs can do for me. I tried 3 different dogs before they matched me up with a special one.

This dog has done a lot for me; he's a lover. I see that he's making me happier. He gives me a feeling that a change in life can happen. I can see myself having a better life than what I do now. One of the best things that happened here after being matched with him was meeting his namesake and sitting and talking with him for about an hour. I found that other veterans really can understand what's going on in each other's lives.

On Veteran's Day 2018 I had the chance to meet members of the Columbus High School Class of 1968. For their class reunion, they decided to raise and donate money to Retrieving Freedom in honor of Dave Hartogh, their classmate who was sent to Vietnam and KIA shortly after his 19th birthday. After getting to talk with them, we made many connections. They donated $900 toward my goal of raising money for Retrieving Freedom. I'd like to raise more to give back to the organization who is providing me with such a loving, helpful dog.