2014 Calendar “Rescued Heroes- Veterans Edition”
In 2011, someone directed our attention to how rescued dogs are helping our returning Veterans with PTSD and to the website PawsAndStripes.org. http://www.pawsandstripes.org/ In a video, founder and Iraq Veteran, Jim Stanek described what it was like to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury. He explained how his rescued service dog Sarge gave him back his life and independence.
I am a non-combat Veteran of the Vietnam Era and had heard of both PTSD and TBI but never fully understood what the terms meant until then. One out of every five veterans returning home will start a new battle with PTSD and of those with PTSD, one of six will attempt suicide. We are losing 22 Veterans a day to suicide.
We decided we needed to change directions and turn the spotlight on the value these rescued service dogs have in healing these “invisible wounds of war”. Our 2014 Calendar is devoted to these wonderful service dogs and their heroic owners. We found organizations that use well screened rescued dogs to train as service dogs for veterans with PTSD. The organizations introduced us to graduates of their programs that wanted to participate in getting this message out. These 12 warriors wanted to tell their stories with the hope of helping their fellow veterans learn the value of service dogs in combating the symptoms of PTSD – especially when all else fails.
We had the honor to meet Jim Stanek last fall as we traveled eleven days and 6045 miles to meet all of the participants. His dog Sarge is our cover dog and their story is the month of January. We will always be grateful to Jim and his wonderful wife Lindsey, CEO of Paws and Stripes, for inspiring us in this new direction. We hope these stories can help people better understand what our Veterans are going through.
We even met a fellow Minnesotan, Ryan and his service dog Spirit in St. Augustine, FL. Ryan was in the Navy at the time we met and his inspiring story can be found as the month of February. Ryan hopes in the future to help provide service dogs for other veterans. We had a wonderful time that day with Ryan and also with Army Veteran Kevin and his service dog Bella that are featured as the month of June. Kevin is shown here with his wonderful wife Lisa along with Bella. Bella accompanies Kevin to class everyday at Flagler College in St. Augustine. Kevin’s studies are leading him into areas where he can actively advocate for his fellow veterans.
We hope their stories can help people better understand what our Veterans are going through. Every Veteran we met with was outstanding. After hearing about what each of them had gone though, you could have expected some bitterness. But instead we found men and women that would do it all again, some who fought to stay in the military, stay with their units and did not want to end their service. We also found that a high percentage are currently doing some type of advocacy for fellow veterans or want to go into some kind of work or service in the future to improve the lives of their fellow veterans. We were so honored to have met each one of them and after reading each of their stories I know you will share that same sense of pride we have. How absolutely amazing that these four legged miracles came into their lives-as you will see, what these dogs are capable of is unbelievable.
If you know a great organization that thoughtfully uses rescued dogs when training service dogs for veterans please let us know. We hope to share information with Veterans on our Facebook page. (Link is www.Facebook.com/rescuedogarg) Also, if you know a Veteran with a service dog that comes from an accredited organization that uses rescued dogs and would be interested in participating in our calendars, please write us through our “Contact Page”.
What can we all do? If you are inspired by what these dogs are able to accomplish, please be an advocate and urge legislators to support service dogs as a tool to assist our Veterans with PTSD. If you have an organization that trains service dogs for our veterans in your area, support it with your dollars or ask if there is a way you can volunteer to help. There are tens of thousands of Veterans needing this help across our country and if we all help we can make a difference. They gave up so much for us- now it is our turn to show them how much we care and appreciate their service. Thanks everyone!