Digital Series
Published November 11, 2019

Marvel Make Me a Hero Spotlights a Real-Life Hero and His Service Dog

Meet Alex van Breukelen, a retired Marine, and his equally heroic service dog Tara!

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On the latest episode of Marvel Make Me a Hero, retired Marine Alex van Breukelen and his service dog Tara get the Marvel hero treatment for Veterans Day! As a fan of the original Hulk movies and TV shows, Alex explained that he could relate to how Bruce Banner has learned to control "the monster inside," but wanted his Marvel to be kind of "an average Joe." He also said Tara deserved some heroic recognition for her ability to detect bad energy and turn it into something positive and comforting. It's a power that Alex wishes he could share with others.

Marvel.com had the opportunity to follow up with Alex about his thoughts on heroes:

You’ve watched some of the Marvel movies with your kids. Do you see parallels between Marvel’s heroes and real-life heroes?

I think that there are always some types of parallels between Marvels characters and real-life heroes. I use the Hulk as an example where this mild-mannered nerd of a man that no one would ever suspect of being aggressive or powerful turns into the Hulk when provoked. I think this resonates with A LOT of people (myself included). You don’t have to be an over-the-top, in-your-face personality to have hidden talents that can change the world.    

Have you ever watched a Marvel movie and kind of wished you could offer them input on their battles?

I never understood ANY cinematic battles of the physical kind, either in Marvel or in other movies. Combat is NOT like anything in the cinematic world, nor should it be. There is no possible way to actually capture combat in any type of cinematic display. I feel that Marvel has done a good job of removing the reality out of combat, fighting and battles in order to keep it truly entertaining. 

Marvel Make Me a Hero Alex and Tara
Alex and Tara

What are the most heroic acts you’ve witnessed, in both your civilian life and otherwise?

Wow….  The most physically heroic act I have witnessed was during Operation Bowie in Ar Ramadi Iraq in Oct of 2005. The lead vehicle in our convoy was hit with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device – Roadside bomb).  My vehicle was pushed up as the Medivac vehicle to extract the injured. As I rushed up to the blast site, a young man lay on the ground with his leg completely mangled. In his pain, and through the trauma, he continued to do his job. He was the Corpsman with the unit. He was the one that was there to support all of his Marine Brethren and was supposed to be the one to take care of us. As he sat there, through the physical pain, he provided guidance to the young Marines that were now forced to administer first aid to him. He calmly and professionally walked them through how to apply the tourniquet and saved his own life…

Ohhhhh, but wait -- that’s not it. After the tourniquet was applied the Marines, hoisted Doc up and moved him to the back of the HMMWV. There was another casualty, a young Lieutenant had already been placed in the back of the HMMWV. As soon as Doc was placed into the back with the LT, he didn’t hesitate to continue to do his job. With his own leg mangled, he rolled over and began administering first aid to the young LT that was hit. 

I wish this was the only “heroic” act that I have been witness to. Unfortunately it’s not. 

On the civilian side, I hope to NEVER have to witness the same type of physical heroism that I was forced to in service. One of the more Heroic things that I have witnessed in the civilian side was a young man that has selflessly dedicated himself over the past seven years to truly improving a community here in Baltimore. A Marine that could have gone and got a high-paying corporate job decided to dedicate himself to working for a non-profit that pays a tiny portion of what he could be making. He does this on a daily basis because he is a hero to the people around him and would NEVER want to be recognized for it.      

How do you define a hero?

There is no definition of a hero. I think that EVERY single person out there has the ability to become someone else's hero. So I suppose that a hero is anyone that you can look up to and has had a positive impact on you life or the lives of those around you. 

Who are your heroes?

My father – He had polio when he was a child and lived his entire life with a severe disability. However, at NO point in my life did that ever stop him from doing anything. Adversity didn’t exist.

Doc Leoncio – The Corpsman that I never met from the above story. While I have never had a conversation with the man, many people who know me, know of him. 

Everyone – As corny as that sounds, I try to look at everyone for their hidden “powers.” If everyone had the opportunity to work within their Genius Zone, the world would be an amazing place. If you treat everyone like a hero when you first meet them, many will let you down. However, every once in a while, you get to see a hero born. 

Alex's Hero
Art by Nelson Blake II

How did it feel to see your hero come to life on Marvel Make Me a Hero?

That was super cool. I NEVER consider myself a hero. I don’t want or need to be anyone’s hero. I LOVE watching other people turn into heroes themselves. So as I looked at my image of my super hero, there I was a simple, plain old, average guy. If I can become a hero, then so can everyone else. 

Thank you, Alex and all of our veterans, for your service!

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