Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remembering our heroes

This article is reprinted from the Memorial Day issue of Brown Dog Tales, the newsletter.

Pete called yesterday to invite me to a cookout at his house. He doesn't get involved in the big Memorial Day events. He prefers to remember privately, with family and friends. 

Pete is a veteran. The traumatic brain injury - a result of wounds suffered in war six years ago - changed him. He copes with PTSD, hearing loss, impaired balance, migraines, left-side weakness, chronic fatigue syndrome and pain. He has flashbacks and nightmares and visual triggers that can bring on terrible rage.

But he's so much more than his injuries. He's a country boy who drives a pickup truck and loves to hunt and fish. He's a father, a boyfriend, a brother and a son. He's a great guy with a wicked sense of humor and dreams of what he can do with his land. Pete is a man of action.

So when his doctors and therapists recommended he get a service dog, he tried to find one. Instead he found waiting lists years long. So Pete started looking for a dog he could train himself. He found Rocky, a mixed breed about a year and a half old. He adopted Rocky and then went looking for a service dog trainer to help him get his dog trained and certified. That's when our paths crossed, thanks to the efforts of Pete's girlfriend and caregiver, Mandi and a referral from Dogs for Veterans.
Yesterday, Memorial Day, when we finished our hot dogs and hamburgers, Pete asked everyone to gather round. His tradition is to raise a glass on this day. Remembering, he proposed a quiet toast to his friends who didn't make it home from war. And to those to who still serve.

Pete has agreed that together, we will tell his and Rocky's story. He wants to encourage other veterans who might benefit from a service dog to learn more about alternative ways to get one. So today is the introduction. 

MWDs - The Dogs of War
A huge debt of gratitude to another group of war heroes: Military Working Dogs and their handlers. Here's a story about one such team. 

Not just Memorial Day
Originally, rather than barbecues and parades, Memorial Day was "... one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country." The debt we owe the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in war deserves at least a moment of quiet contemplation once a year, don't you think?

As an extension of Memorial Day, let's remember the debt we owe our active duty service men and women, their families and veterans all year. Make it a point to thank them - the ones you know and the ones you meet by chance. 

And so, to Pete and anyone reading this who is part of the military family, thank you for your service.

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