Carolyn May and Wiggles

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PTSD is an ugly, devitalizing, and enervating disorder. Sometimes you just want to hide and avoid people completely. It is difficult to do the things you once loved and PTSD symptoms have adverse and detrimental effects on relationships. When one considers what it means to be well, what it means to be mentally healthy, it is essential that we interact with others have compassion not only for other people, but for ourselves.

Compassion, companionship…. That’s what a service dog provides for their battle buddy. In 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to receive a service dog from a non-profit organization Healing4Heroes. The process started with choosing a dog. I think Wiggles actually chose me. She is super loving and energetic. I thought to myself “This dog will force me to get out of bed,” even on days when I’m severely depressed and have zero motivation.

Wiggles presence has changed my life for the better. I have a reason to get out of bed, even on the days where the depression is consuming, and I don’t want to do anything. Even if the only thing she does is lay by me on those days where I don’t want to get up, her unconditional love is unfailing. In a world where it is hard to find compassion and unconditional love, my service dog is an exact reflection of those human needs.

I can walk into Walmart with her by my side without feeling panicked or overwhelmed by the excessive amounts of people. PTSD symptoms have caused me to be excessively situationally aware, to the point where I create danger in my mind that is not physically present. My service dog can post and make me aware of when someone is coming up behind me. She can put space between myself and another person so that I can maintain my personal boundary bubble. When I have mobility issues, wiggles gives me a brace to get back up on.

Wiggles senses my anxiety and puts her paw on me to put me in check and make me aware of my mood. She just looks at me and with her big brown eyes, tells me that I’m ok and I need to take a break. When I experience seizures from conversion disorder, she will place pressure on me and relieve some of the thrashing from the muscle spasms. I have an extreme aversion to touch, but that has not stopped Wiggles from giving me a hug every time I walk through the door (hug is actually now a command). In being affectionate with my service dog, I have slowly become more comfortable with human touch.

Having a service dog has made me a better person. I’ve gotten pieces of myself back that PTSD, depression, and anxiety stole from me. I am less withdrawn. I am more confident. I feel like me again.

Getting a rescue dog for a service dog actually rescued me.

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Mike Arena & Orion

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Orion (my service dog) over the years has drastically reduced my symptoms of PTSD.

Since Orion…

I can have a connection with my family; reintegrating with the lives of my 4 children and soon to be 3 grandchildren from a previous life and now a long-term relationship with my girlfriend and her daughter.

I can go back to work; regaining a since of belonging to society and communicate with others.

I can go to the to the grocery story in the middle of back-to-school-shopping crowds versus waiting to 0200 on a Thursday with no people in the store.

I can go into large crowds attending a volley ball game or just having a nice dinner out without having to look for the exits.

I can “pay it forward” as Orion, my service dog, has given me confidence in allowing me to start a service dog non-profit in helping other veterans realize how a service dog can be used as a tool for the internal wounds, just like a prosthetic leg might be a for a visible wound.  We can speak at public forums for community outreach– raising awareness to veteran suicide; reducing the numbers one service dog at time.

Mike Arena

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SFTT Salutes: Lance Corporal Charlton E. Johnson USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

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STAND FOR THE TROOPS (SFTT) is honoring service dogs with our Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign that celebrates the unique relationship between Veterans and their canine companions. SFTT recognizes the significant role these support animals play and wants to show-and-tell this fact to the world.

Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

I am Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, Attached to a Weapons Plt in Golf Co 2nd Bn 5th Mar 1st Marine Div also; Spec 4, Weapons Specialist attached to the Scout Plt in Combat Support Company Naugatck CT.

I first met Didi Tolloch the Pets for Vets (PFV) Manager some 4 years ago and after our first interview became the 1st Veteran to adopt a dog through them in the state of Ct. I want you to know right now that Aliana Saved Me and it was not the other way around! She has become my reason for waking up every day, my reason for Living! I suffer from severe PTSD, Depression and other mental issues from my time in the Military.

 At mine and Aliana first meeting we Both Knew that we needed each other it was and still is A Perfect Match made from the Heavens! Didi and PFV have been there every step to make sure we were both taken care of, Didi is the reason why I can keep and maintain the expense of having Aliana!! Mary Jo Duffy (the trainer) should also be mentioned because she has helped with training and helping both of adjust to our new situation!

I would like everyone to know how grateful I am to these two ladies!! If I would win this, it would mean the world to Aliana and I as I am on Disability at the present time. So, thank you for taking your time to read this letter, as you can see I’m not too good with words and it’s not easy to express myself in the right light!! I’m attaching a picture of Aliana and I at ROAR’s 1st Furry Scurry Event in 2016.

“Semper Fi”

Charlton & Aliana Jane

You, too, can share your unique story and photo of you and your service dog, along with a short description (500 words or less) about WHY this canine relationship has made a difference in your life. We’ll post it right here in our Service Dog Gallery. Submissions will be eligible for a SFTT Lucky Dog Award where two teams will receive a year supply of dog food.

 

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY

  • Submit your story (no more than 500 words, please) and high-resolution digital photo to info@SFTT.org.
  • Include name, address, email and phone number with your submission.
  • For additional info, please contact Maura Kallaway 203-629-0288.
  • The first of the two awards will be announced 9/6 and 9/30, respectively.

 

By submitting your story (500 words or less) and a photo of your battle buddy, you agree that both items can be posted in their entirety along with any images on SFTT social media streams and www.SFTT.org.

 

 

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SFTT Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign

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‘Some dogs help people see, while others
help them forget what they’ve seen!’

Stand for the Troops (SFTT), the David Hackworth legacy foundation, is Saluting Service Dogs with a photo campaign launching on PTSD Awareness Day, June 27th, 2018. Veterans and their families are encouraged to submit candid or portrait photographs of themselves and their service dog companion along with a short narrative about WHY this canine relationship has reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD). The campaign will conclude on September 6th, 2018 when one Veteran will be selected to receive a year’s supply of Dog food. The announcement will be made at the Frank J. Robotti Golf Classic luncheon and recipient does not need to be present.

While the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) acknowledges that owning a dog can “lift your mood” and that “All dog owners, including those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can experience these benefits,” the VA still doesn’t acknowledge the value, both psychological and monetary, of canine companionship to Veterans.

The good news? The Contemporary Clinical Trials has designed the first-ever study to quantify the palliative effects of service dogs for Veterans who suffer from PTSD.

But the SFTT Medical Task Force doesn’t need a trial to know how restorative the relationship between a transitioning serviceman or woman and his/her service dog can be. Whether you’re recently separated from active duty or you’ve been a civilian for many years, we recognize the impact these animals have had on your lives, which is why we fund service dog programs throughout the US.

SFTT’s Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign is about you and your service dog. We know that so many Veterans have experienced the therapeutic benefits of having a PTSD service dog and we want to hear about — and see — your unique relationship with your canine.

Submit your Story and High Resolution Digital Photo to info@SFTT.org and we’ll post both your story and photo.  Dog Food recipient will be notified by phone so be sure to include name, address, email and phone number with your submission.

By submitting your story (500 words or less) and a photo of your battle buddy, you agree that it can be posted in its entirety along with any images on SFTT social media streams and SFTT.org.

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Happy 2018!

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Is it too late to wish you all a happy new year? We think not!

Here at SFTT we’ve been busy wrapping up our 2017 initiatives and planning for an even better 2018 with new programs and partners to help Veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

During the past year, Stand for the Troops, the Little Organization That Could and Has, hit a major milestone — we turned 20! Twenty, old enough to be a combat soldier which, in many ways we are. SFTT is at war helping American Veterans combat invisible war wounds.

In 2017, we fought for — and aided — our Veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD by:

  • Securing educational grants 2017 for west coast Veterans wanting to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture and presently, a 2018 grant to continue this program is being reviewed. We’re also working to expand this program to make it available to Veterans on the east coast.
  • Helping fund Attention-Bias Modification Treatment for PTSD research at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute by supporting the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yuval Neria. Dr. Neria’s other related projects establish innovative trauma care for Veterans and their family members, such as Man of War Project & Military Family Wellness Center.
  • Working in concert with the Knights of Columbus on The Frank Robotti Golf Classic where we raised awareness and funds for service dogs. We’ll be awarding money to a local service dog program soon.

In 2018 we plan to continue this good work while introducing a program that focuses on our co-founder, Col. David “Hack” Hackworth’s commitment to safeguarding frontline soldiers with more than lip service. Our new treatment plan, unveiled in the next few weeks, integrates proven medical and wellness therapies to effectively treat combat-related traumatic brain injury.

We’d love to hear from you so please drop us a line at info@sftt.org!

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