Where did you serve and what did you do?
I had the privilege of serving my country for 13 years as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman (2001-2014). As a young sailor, I started my career on the east coast in North Carolina where I was a Corpsman/EMT. I later received orders to Yokosuka, Japan to serve as a shipboard Corpsman onboard the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48) and the USS Mustin (DDG-89).
Returning to the states in 2007, I completed FMF training at Camp Pendleton and was stationed in San Diego, California. I deployed to Iraq with my Marines in 2008-2009 as part of a Police Transition Team. Returning from deployment in 2009, I applied for the Naval School of Health Sciences, in San Diego where I attended Independent Duty Corpsman School.
Due to PTSD and TBI I had received in combat, I was not able to complete school. I returned to the Fleet and was later medically retired from Wounded Warrior Battalion – West in 2014.
Tell us how your dog is helping you continue #StillServing in your community.
Chloe has a hard start to life. She came into my life as a six-month-old, malnourished rescue as our family pet. From there she has become a trained Service Dog that saved my life, to the inspiration for launching a nonprofit organization called Service Dog Interactions, Inc. that helps other veterans and individuals.
When Chloe was 3-years-old, I started with the Canine Good Citizen certification and trained her to accompany me in public. Once I felt confident that Chloe would be a good Service Dog, I researched ways to train her for specific tasks that would help me gain more independence. I used a combination of techniques used to train medical alert dogs, but specifically wanted to have Chloe alert by breaking my attention and making me focus on her.
One night she did exactly what she was trained to do and it saved my life. I was in a bad place mentally and Chloe pushed hard into my leg and barked and stopped me from ending my life. Wanting to give back, #StillServing, Chloe was the foundational reason I started my nonprofit organization. We support disabled veterans and individuals who have service dogs by providing them with essential care items at no cost to them. We serve veterans and individuals across the country.
Today, now with over 6 years working at my side, Chloe recently celebrated her 10th birthday and I chose to retire her as my Service Dog. She will have a new job at the local Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital as an official Therapy Dog. This will give her a continued sense of purpose and responsibility along with helping provide needed encouragement for our nation’s heroes. #StillServing
Why do you do it?
After deployment, I struggled with PTSD and other mental health challenges as well as physical ones after my retirement from the military. I am blessed to have my Service Dog, Chloe, and I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.
I struggled mentally, physically and financially. Through various groups I had met other veterans who had Service Dogs. They shared with me how they struggle with the ongoing costs and care for their Service Dog. In one case, I met a Marine Corps Veteran who skipped meals so that he could afford dog food for his Service Dog…
So why do I do it? Because I knew that if I was having these issues, and knowing others are struggling as well, what can I do to change that? What can I do to make a difference? Having Chloe by my side, in 2018 I founded Service Dog Interactions, Inc., a nonprofit public benefit corporation. We continue to grow and share our mission with Veterans and Individuals in need across the county.
To date, we have provided over $5,000 in items and care for Veterans and individuals who have Service Dogs. Not only that, we act as an advocate and provide education and training to businesses, community programs, and other organizations. Why? Because if a simple gesture of being able to provide something like a toy or a bag of dog food, or cover the cost of a vet bill for a veteran in need takes that “pressure” off of their back, then that is how I can help “share the load” and hopefully make their day a little better.