In the Community

Even After Passing, Veteran Brings Others the Comfort of Canine Companionship

As the Vietnam War raged, James “Jim” Magnon joined the Marines. Just out of high school, those close to him knew it was an act of bravery and selflessness. The main reason he enlisted was to help ensure his brother would not see combat.

He served courageously. Over the course of his military career, Magnon received many accolades, including three Purple Hearts, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

“As you can see, Jim did everything 110%!” said family friend and neighbor Kim Norcott.

But his valiant service came at a price. According to Norcott, Magnon returned from war with lasting psychological scars.

“He came home broken and wounded, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally, never to be the same again,” said Norcott. “In his own words, ‘he was in hell.’”

But Magnon’s inner turmoil did not stop him from performing acts of kindness, both big and small, within his community.  

“Despite everything, Jim continued serving,” said Norcott. “From cutting the neighbor’s grass and changing dead car batteries to helping in medical emergencies on our block — even welcoming his grandchildren to move into his home to help raise them — Jim was always there for others.”

During his lifetime, Magnon had several dogs, including Pugsley, Christopher and Chico. Norcott is certain that without their companionship, Magnon would not have led the same life of service.

“His dogs gave him the confidence, unconditional love and physical comfort he yearned for,” said Norcott. “Without them, I don’t believe he could have served others — or even lived — for so long. They soothed his pain every day.”

Magnon passed away in 2017, but not before making a lasting impact on Norcott and her family. Growing up, when her kids saw Magnon in his front yard with Pugsley, Christopher and Chico, they knew he was in a good mood and eager to socialize.

“If it wasn’t for him, my children would still be scared of dogs,” said Norcott. “He helped them learn to love and care for dogs.”

Already dear to Norcott’s heart, canines became important to her entire family. Recently, they began a dog breeding business, named NoodleDoodles, in Marietta, Pennsylvania.

To honor Magnon, Norcott established a special program as part of her business. Through “Mr. Jim’s Doodles,” one puppy from each litter will go to a veteran, free of charge.

The first Mr. Jim’s Doodles recipient, Jessica Baird, joined the Air Force following September 11th and is still serving today, as a member of her local VFW post. Baird plans to name her puppy Stevie and train him as a service dog. She is grateful to have come across Norcott’s website.

“Finding a service dog is a difficult and expensive process. Many veterans become discouraged and do not get the resources they need,” said Baird. “I believe this is a real disservice to our military men and women, and I hope future [VA] programs make it easier for veterans.

“Stevie will help me live in my community with lessened anxiety and fear,” Baird continued. “And she will be a source of camaraderie that has been missing since I left the military.”

Witnessing the comfort and joy Magnon’s dogs brought him, Norcott is determined to help other veterans realize the same benefits of a canine companion. As she builds her business, she cherishes her memories of Magnon and is humbled by his acts of service that are, in a way, still happening today. “Mr. Jim made me laugh, and at times, shake my head. And somehow, he often managed to humble my soul,” she reflected. “He served every day of his life, and he continues to even now that he’s gone.”

If you’re a veteran with a service dog, working dog, therapy dog or emotional support dog, share your #StillServing story and photo.

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