A Veteran’s Dog Days – A Story of Hope

As you may know, I am a former USAF Sentry Dog handler. I met a young man yesterday whose story touched me personally and illustrates how important it is for all us to be involved in supporting veterans. Phil served in the USAF as a Dog Handler in Iraq during Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Having completed his tour of duty, he again re-enlisted into the US Army with the intention of making the military a career. However, upon returning to Iraq, Phil was critically wounded while in a truck struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. (His 3 comrades, also in the truck, were killed) After months of recovery and physical therapy, Phil was discharged from the service with multiple physical disabilities including traumatic brain injury.

We have all heard how overwhelming and depressing it can be for a soldier to return home to civilian life. Imagine coming home from war, and all of the challenges of reintegrating into the civilian world. Now imagine what it is like with the added weight of physical therapy and the struggles of a brain injury. Phil was paralyzed with grief; unable to even manage the daily work of physical therapy until the day he found a purpose, a puppy named Lt (pronounced L-T)

Lt and Phil were introduced when the dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever, was only eight weeks old. With the support of a fellowship from The Mission Continues, Phil made a twelve-month commitment to train Lt to become a support Dog for the handicapped for The Support Dogs, Inc. Today Phil is not only adapting to his own physical challenges, he is thriving once again as a dog trainer. Watching Phil and Lt go through their training paces, together, filled me with pride.

Meeting Phil made a personal connection for me. He graduated from the same dog handler school I graduated from, Lackland AFB. Seeing him beat adversity and to find his purpose is heartwarming. It strengthens the desire for me to do anything and everything I can to make sure that we assist our veterans when they come home from war.

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