Where did you serve and what did you do?
US Marines, Beirut Lebanon 1982 32MAU HMM261 Fighting Bulls, USS Guam.
Operation Urgent Fury Grenada 1983 work party detail, stateside, New River NC HMLA 269 Cobra’s
Tell us how your dog is helping you continue #StillServing in your community.
As a life member of both the VFW and American Legion, my service dog Ella (black Labrador) is helping me in my daily activities in life. As a 100% permanent/total rated disabled veteran with chronic PTSD, Ella has been instrumental in helping me integrate back into society and live as normal a life as possible. Before and after my diagnoses of PTSD, I was having a terrible time with going out in public, or where large groups of people congregate. I couldn’t function anymore in society and became unemployable. Ella’s main job or function is to aid me when I have panic or anxiety attacks. She accompanies me to stores to do shopping without the aid of my wife, she is also a support dog in the house where she is with me pretty much 24/7 and is constantly by my side as my battle buddy. Where I go, Ella goes, she’s my security blanket so to speak. Before Ella, I had a service dog Jax, a yellow Labrador, who needed to retire due to health issues. I was in a panic and had huge amounts of apprehension as to where or how I would be able to replace Jax with another service dog. I didn’t need to take steps backwards, and go back into that negative spiral effect after making some positive progress in adapting back into society. Living in Europe in the Netherlands, I was directed to a foundation in Ramstein Germany called K9 for veterans abroad. Richard Rice who runs the foundation is a Iraq combat veteran, purple heart recipient, 100% disabled war veteran, who trains service dogs for Veterans suffering from PTSD. Richard also suffers from PTSD, so the click when we met was instant. I was introduced to the foundation and in January of 2022 my wife and I drove to Ramstein to meet Ella and see if she was the right dog for me and our family. We had concerns about Jax and how she would integrate into our family. Well, Ella turned out to bond with not only myself, but with my wife and Jax, as soon as she spent a day or two with us. Now, it was a if she was specifically raised for our family. Ella and Jax are inseparable. I went back to Ramstein at the end of January to train with Ella and Richard for one week at Ramstein Airbase, and now Ella serves with me in the Netherlands where I live with my wife. Ella has been a blessing and such a huge impact on my life and condition, I feel I can breath again without fear that something is going to happen.
Why do you do it?
As a kid I was a happy go lucky kind of guy. After my service in the Marines my time in Beirut Lebanon, there was a change in my personality, I wasn’t that same happy go lucky kid anymore. It just wasn’t the same after I left the service. I went through two failed marriages, got into a family court system which is unforgiving, I lost my five children to separation and divorce, and had some major issues to contend with. I was even homeless and lived in halfway houses for over a year and a half. However, as Marines we are taught never to quit, to keep on going, to keep fighting and never give up. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So even though life has thrown some huge punches and setbacks my way, which knocked me down to the ground a few times, I still found that inner strength to get back up and come back swinging, and move forward bettering myself each and every time. Marines are not quitter’s we are fighters, and I want to show the world and myself that I could make it, and succeed in life, even when you feel you are at the end of your rope, you feel hopeless and unable to proceed forward and feel as if you have nowhere to turn and have failed in life. I wanted to show other Veterans that, there is a way to beat the effects of PTSD. If I could do it, then they can too. That there is help for Veterans who are dealing with the same issues I contended with day in and day out. By setting that example, to show that we can overcome the effects of PTSD and live a normal life, to be part of society and have a positive influence on other veterans as well as my children and family. I wanted to share with other veterans suffering, that PTSD won’t go away, however you can live and deal with the effects and understand the condition and know how to navigate through the causes and effects when those issue arise. It’s only through counselling, therapy and getting the proper mental health and tools put in place, that a Veteran can be successful in overcoming/ or maintaining the effects of PTSD. Use the VA system, it’s there for you and I. A few years ago I started a foundation called Music 4 Vets Nederland. Our sister group is Music4veterans in the USA. I use music as a therapeutic devise to aid veterans who suffer from PTSD from their deployments. As a music artist where I am in the lime light from time to time, performing was something which gave me much pleasure in life. It was a monumental struggle to continue to perform for people standing on stage in front of a few hundred people, while suffering from PTSD and other health issues. Both Jax and Ella are instrumental in allowing me to continue in the music world, and aid me in reaching other veterans who suffer too, we reach out and try to get Veterans who are suffering from the effects of PTSD to accept the fact that they need help, and that there is help for them, but they must make the first steps, and make the call. We can only guide them, point them in the right direction. The Veteran ultimately must help themselves first before they can help others. So it’s a life mission to help and guide other veterans who need guidance and help. I feel no different from that Marine NCO taking charge and getting the mission accomplished through teamwork and that can do attitude. The sense of pride and accomplishment on completing a task. If I can save one Veterans life, make a difference in just one Veteran and help them live a productive, positive way of life, then I have achieved my mission. Many of my brothers have succumbed to PTSD, and depression. They also have succumbed to other related VA health issues. I can’t even count anymore how many Veterans and Marine brothers I know personally who have committed suicide, or died through disabilities, terminal illnesses received while serving on active duty. To many to count anymore. So by being an advocate for service dogs, and PTSD, the impact they have on a persons life, if I can get through all the pain and grief, so can other Veterans like me. The only way us Veterans will make it in this world if we continue to take care of each other, like we did when we were on active duty. Our service never really ends, we serve until our creator calls us home. And as long as I am able to advocate for others, I will do so… I’m a proud Marine and it’s the only way I know how to be.