METROFOCUS: NOVEMBER 11, 2019

We’ll join a group of veterans and their supporters on a road trip across the nation to preserve the memories of Vietnam vets. Each year, thousands of veterans die by suicide while adjusting to life back at home. We’ll take you inside a program enlisting vets to save one another. Tonight, we meet a few four-legged heroes training for an important mission.

Aired on November 11, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' SPECIAL EDITION.

FROM THE FRONT LINE TO THE HOME FRONT.

AS WE HONOR OUR NATION'S VETERANS, WE JOIN A GROUP OF THEM AND THEIR SUPPORTERS ON A ROAD TRIP ACROSS THE NATION TO SHARE THE LEGACY OF THE WALL THAT HEALS AND PRESERVE THE MEMORIES OF VIETNAM VETS.

> THEN FROM HONORING VETERANS TO SAVING THEM.

EACH YEAR THOUSANDS OF VETERANS DIE BY SUICIDE WHILE ADJUSTING TO LIFE BACK AT HOME.

WE'LL TAKE YOU INSIDE THE OPERATION ENLISTING VETS TO SAVE ONE ANOTHER.

> PLUS THE PAWS OF WAR AND STORIES OF RECOVERY.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT HONORED THE BRAVE DELTA FORCE DOG THAT HELPED TAKE DOWN THE LEADER OF ISIS, WE'LL MEET SOME OTHER FOUR-LEGGED HEROES TRAINING FOR AN IMPORTANT MISSION HERE AT HOME.

THOSE STORIES AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

WHEN VIETNAM VETERANS FIRST RETURNED FROM THE WAR, THE PUBLIC'S RESPONSE WAS FAR FROM POSITIVE, AND IT WASN'T UNTIL THE VIETNAM VETERAN MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WAS OPENED TO THE PUBLIC IN 1982 THAT THESE VETS WERE TRULY RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR SERVICE.

IN NOVEMBER 1996, THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND LAUNCHED THE WALL THAT HEALS, A PROGRAM WHERE A 250-FOOT REPLICA OF THE FAMOUS MEMORIAL TRAVELS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY TO HONOR THE 58,000 PLUS MEN AND WOMEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THAT CONFLICT.

AND TODAY VIETNAM VETS ARE BEING HONORED WITH THIS REPLICA, WHICH IS BEING ESCORTED BY OVER 300 VETERAN BIKERS.

WE SPOKE TO SOME VETERANS ABOUT THEIR REACTIONS TO THIS HEALING WALL.

WE SKORTED THE TRAILER DOWN HERE WITH THE VIETNAM WALL.

WE KICK STARTED THE EVENT WITH A MOTORCYCLE ESCORT OF THE TRACTOR-TRAILER CONTAINING THE WALL.

WHEN WE BRING THE TRAILER AND THE WALL THAT HEALS INTO A COMMUNITY, WE USUALLY START AT A SEPARATE LOCATION AND WE SKORT IT IN.

WE DO WIT THE BIKES AND THE FANFARE.

MANY OF THE BIKES AT THE FRONT OF THE TRAILER WERE VIETNAM VETERAN, WE WANTED TO HAVE A GREAT SHOWING FOR OUR ESCORT FOR THE WALL.

A LOT OF MOTORCYCLE ORGANIZATIONS, MILITARY, VETERAN, AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS.

WE'VE DONE SEVERAL ESCORTS BEFORE, AND THIS WAS ON THE LARGER SIDE, I WOULD SAY.

THERE ARE SO MANY RIDERS HERE, IT'S UNREAL.

EVERY GROUP THAT I CONTACTED WAS MORE THAN WILLING AND THRILLED TO CONTACT US.

WE FELT THIS WAS SOMETHING WE SHOULD DO.

A GREAT HONOR TO DO THAT.

WE WERE PROUD TO DO THAT.

EVERYTHING WAS WELL COORDINATED.

IT WAS A REALLY NICE RIDE.

TRAFFIC STOPPED.

AND SALUTED, WAVING A SIGN.

THEY HAD THE FIRE ENGINES WITH THE FLAG-DRAPED ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

THAT WAS AMAZING TO RIDE UNDER.

THE STATE POLICE WERE LINED UP SALUTING US.

THAT WAS VERY OVERWHELMING.

ONCE WE ARRIVED HERE AT THE LEGION, THE MOOD OF THE BIKERS WERE AMAZING.

IT WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL AND MOVING EVENT FOR ALL THE RIDE.

THE AMERICAN LEGION HERE IN SAWYERSVILLE, THEY'RE OUR HOST.

THEY WERE INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING US HERE.

THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER GROUPS.

IT'S GREAT TO SEE MANY GREAT GROUPS COME OUT.

THEY HAD A VISION.

THE AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS HERE IN THE POST HAD A VISION OF DOING SOMETHING HUGE FOR THEIR COMMUNITY.

AND THEY SAID LET'S BRING THE WALL HERE.

LET'S BRING THE WALL HOME.

[ APPLAUSE ]

THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND BUILT THE WALL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND WE DEDICATED IT 35 YEARS AGO.

AND SO IN NOVEMBER OF 1996, WE BUILT THE WALL THAT HEALS.

HELPING PEOPLE REMEMBER AND HEAL.

WE'RE GOING TRAVEL TO 41 COMMUNITIES.

WE STARTED IN LATE JANUARY AND WE WILL GO THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF DECEMBER.

THE EDUCATION CENTER IS PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE THINGS AMONGST THE WALL THAT HEALS.

THERE IS THREE INFORMATION SCREENS ON THE BACK OF THE TRUCK.

WHICH ARE GOING TO ROTATE THROUGH PICTURES OF THE HOMETOWN HEROES THAT ARE ON THE WALL, AS WELL AS THE WALL OF FAITH AND SCREEN WHICH IS GOING TO SHOW PICTURES OF EVERYONE WHO WOULD HAVE HAD THEIR BIRTHDAY ON THAT DAY ON THE WALL.

IT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO SUDDENLY HAVE EVEN MORE OF A WALL EXPERIENCE, BECAUSE ON THREE PANELS THERE, YOU CAN SEE SOME OF THE ITEMS THAT HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND AT THE WALL.

THE WALL HAS REALLY TOUCHED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERY YEAR, AND THEY'VE LEFT SO MANY THINGS.

THEY'RE AMAZING BECAUSE IT'S SOMETHING PERSONAL THAT WAS LEFT AT THE WALL IN WASHINGTON.

EACH ONE HAS ITS OWN LITTLE WAY OF GRABBING AT YOU, BECAUSE IT'S SOMETHING THAT WAS LEFT BY ONE VETERAN OR ANOTHER THAT LOST HIS LIFE THERE.

THAT GAVE HIS ALL.

IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THE SACRIFICES THAT WERE MADE BY THE VETERANS.

IT'S ALSO THE WELCOME HOME THAT THE VIETNAM SOLDIERS DIDN'T GET WHEN THEY CAME BACK IN THE LATE '60s AND EARLY '70s.

THE TONE WAS THEY WAS NOT RESPECTED AT ALL.

THEY HAD PEOPLE YELLING AT THEM, THROWING STUFF AT THEM.

JUST WAS NOT GREAT.

WHEN WE CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM, WE WERE NOT WELCOMED WITH ANY PARADE.

WE WERE THE ONES THAT WERE SHUNNED.

LIKE EVERYBODY LOOKED DOWN ON US.

WE WERE BABY KILLERS AND THEY SPIT AT YOU OR SOMETHING.

WE DIDN'T HAVE ANYBODY IN THE AIRPORT MEETING US WHEN WE CAME BACK.

WE'RE KIND OF USED TO THE HUMILIATION OR WHATEVER YOU CALL IT WHEN WE CAME BACK.

THAT HURT DEEPLY.

SOME OF THEM STILL GOT IT BOTTLED UP IN THEM.

THEY GOT TO LET IT GO.

THAT'S WHY WE CALL THIS THE WALL THAT HEALS SO THEY CAN GET OUT HERE AND SEE THIS PROCESS.

I THOUGHT THIS WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR SOME LEGIONNAIRES THAT COULDN'T MAKE TO IT WASHINGTON.

AND THIS KIND OF SOFTENS JUST A LITTLE BIT, A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTABLE.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO TRAVEL SO FAR.

NO MATTER WHAT YOU BRING IN THE WORLD TO THE WALL, YOU GET HERE AND EVERYTHING SLOWS.

IT CALMS.

THEIR LIVES ENDED, BUT YOU CAN REMEMBER THEM AND REMEMBER THEIR SACRIFICE AND THEIR PEACE.

IT'S A VERY TOUCHING MOMENT WHEN YOU SEE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE YOU KNEW RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU ON THAT WALL.

I WASN'T SURE HOW BIG THE NAMES WERE GOING TO BE.

AND THEY'RE REALLY SMALL.

SO THAT MEANS THERE IS A LOT OF NAMES ON HERE.

TURN AROUND AND LOOK AT IT, EVERY ONE OF THOSE PANELS HAS A LOT OF NAMES ON IT.

TO SEE THIS MANY NAMES AND REALLY PUT IN PERSPECTIVE HOW MANY MEN REALLY LOST THEIR LIFE.

I HAD 23 OF MY COMRADES' NAMES ON THAT WALL.

THEY LOST THEIR LIVES IN ONE NIGHT ON THAT WALL.

THERE WAS A CREW OF 34.

AND I THINK LOST 25 OF THE 34.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING, AND JUST COULDN'T GET BACK.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL TESTAMENT TO ALL THOSE WHO DID SERVE IN VIETNAM WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES.

I GOT A SENSE IT DOES HEAL.

IT MIGHT PUT THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE R STILL ALIVE AT EASE THAT A GUY THAT GAVE ALL THAT HE KNEW IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE REMEMBERED.

THEY WANTED TO SAY HI TO THEIR COMRADES THAT WERE LOST, AND JUST TOUCH SOMETHING TANGIBLE AND SAY I DIDN'T FORGET YOU.

IF YOU LOST A FAMILY MEMBER, I FEEL LIKE IT'S BE REALLY IMPORTANT TO SEE ALL THESE PEOPLE AND TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE RESPECTED FOR ALL THAT YOU'VE DONE.

THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE THAT ARE HERE THAT BELIEVE IN WHAT THEY DID, AND WE APPRECIATE WHAT THEY DID FOR US.

I SPOKE TO QUITE A FEW OF THE VETERANS THAT CAME HERE TO SEE IT, AND IT TOUCHED EVERYONE.

IT MAY BE 50 YEARS LATE, BUT IT'S STILL A WELCOME HOME, FINALLY.

> A SOMBER STATISTIC.

ACCORDING TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, EVERY DAY ABOUT 20 VETERANS DIE BY SUICIDE.

A TRAGIC SITUATION.

HOWEVER, ONE ORGANIZATION IS TAKING A BIG STEP TO COMBAT THIS EPIDEMIC.

THE INDEPENDENT FUND IS STRIVING TO EMPOWER VETERANS TO OVERCOME PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDS AS A RESULT OF THEIR TOUR OF DUTY.

BY TEAMING WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, THE FUND HAS LAUNCHED ED OPERATION RESILIENCY, A PROGRAM WITH PROMISE FOR THOSE WHO CAME HOME SUFFERING FROM PTSD AND MENTAL ILLNESS.

HERE WITH DETAILS ARE TWO SOLDIERS WHO JUST COMPLETED THE OPERATION RESILIENCY PROGRAM.

VETERAN ARMY STAFF SERGEANT AL ALEX JAUREGUI AND MAJOR ADAM ARMSTRONG, BOTH PARATROOPERS WITH BRAVO COMPANY.

THEY JOIN ME NOW.

GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

WHAT IS OPERATION RESILIENCY?

SO OPERATION RESILIENCY, AS YOU STATED, A JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN THE INDEPENDENCE FUND AND THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

AND WHAT IT FOCUSES ON FOR CONTEXT, AS WE CAME OUT, FOR EXAMPLE, DEPLOYED IN '09-'10 TO AFGHANISTAN WITH A PRETTY ROUGH TIME IN TERMS OF FIGHTING AND COMBAT CASUALTIES.

THEN THE UNIT REDEPLOYS AND EVENTUALLY EVERYBODY GOES SORT OF DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.

MAYBE SOME GET OUT.

MAYBE SOME GO TO OTHER UNIT, AND A SMALL AMOUNT STAY IN THAT UNIT.

SO THE PARATROOPERS ARE REALLY DON'T HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF TIME TO REFLECT UPON WHAT EXPERIENCES THEY JUST HAD AND THE REASONS FOR WHY THEY HAD THEM.

THEY GO ON WITH THEIR LIVES.

THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY, WE THINK, POWERFUL THROUGH THE HUMAN CONNECTION, THE BONDS THAT THEY SHARED BACK THEN, A CHANCE TO REVISIT THAT, REFLECT ON IT, PERHAPS UNDERSTAND IT A LITTLE BIT BETTER.

AND THEN DEAL WITH OTHER THINGS THAT THEY'VE BEEN DEALING WITHER IN THEIR LIVES FOR THE LAST NINE YEARS.

SO WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT IT.

WELL, ALEX, WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE WITH OPERATION RESILIENCY?

THE FIRST DAY THAT WE DID IT WAS AMAZING TO WATCH THE GUYS HOW AT THE VERY BEGINNING, THEY WERE VERY RESERVED AND CLOSED.

AND THE MINUTE SOMEBODY BROKE THE ICE AND HEY, MAN, I'VE BEEN STRUGGLING, IT KIND OF OPENED THE DOOR, AND EVERYBODY STARTED OPENING UP AND TALKING ABOUT HOW THEY'VE BEEN STRUGGLING.

I THINK IT MADE THEM REALIZE YOU'RE NOT WEAK FOR ADMITTING THAT YOU'VE HAD SOME HARD TIMES.

AND THE OTHER PART THAT I THINK IS VERY IMPORTANT IS AS A WOUNDED VETERAN WITH VISIBLE WOUNDS, WE ARE VERY FORTUNATE TO GET A LOT OF SUPPORT FROM THE COMMUNITY, BUT THE GUYS THAT ARE COMING HOME WITHOUT VISIBLE WOUNDS, THEY GET OUT AND THEY ARE KIND OF LOSING THEIR IDENTITY, IF YOU WILL.

SO THEY DON'T GET THE THANK YOUS AND THE HUGS BECAUSE THEY CAN'T IDENTIFY THEM.

AND THEY WENT THROUGH JUST AS MUCH STUFF.

SOME OF MY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN THROUGH MORE STUFF.

IT'S REALLY AN AMAZING ORGANIZATION THAT IS ALSO FOCUSING ON THE WOUNDED AS WELL AS THE NONVISIBLE WOUNDED.

AND IS THAT REALLY THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ORGANIZATION'S EXPERIENCE TO BREAK DOWN THOSE WALLS OF PERHAPS ISOLATION THAT PEOPLE MIGHT FEEL?

THAT'S ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, MA'AM.

SO IT GETS DOWN TO SHARED VERSUS SAME EXPERIENCE.

SO THERE IS VETERANS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

HIGH CASUALTY RATES ARE NOT UNIQUE, BUT THE ONLY ONES, OR THE ONLY UNIT THAT THESE GUYS EXPERIENCED THIS ONE WITH WERE THE FOLKS THAT WERE IN THAT UNIT.

SO THAT IS THE UNIQUE PART OF THIS PROGRAM IS THAT IT BRINGS TOGETHER THAT COMPANY WHERE THEY FORM THOSE EXTREMELY STRONG BONDS IN COMBAT, AND NOW MAYBE THAT ALLOWS THEM TO BE A LITTLE BIT MORE VULNERABLE BECAUSE THE TRUST ISN'T THERE.

THE HUMAN CONNECTION ISN'T THERE FROM WHAT THEY'VE ALREADY SHARED.

THE TEAM GOT THEM THROUGH IN THE DEPLOYMENT.

NOW THE TEAM CAN HELP TO GET US THROUGH FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

NOW THIS FEELS INCREDIBLY REVOLUTIONARY OF AN IDEA, EVEN THOUGH IT NECESSARILY SHOULDN'T BE.

AND I'M KIND OF WONDERING IF THERE WAS ANY PREVIOUS PROGRAMS THAT WERE DRAWN ON TO CREATE SOMETHING LIKE THIS, OR IS THIS BRAND, BRAND-NEW?

WELL, I DON'T REALLY KNOW IF THOSE PROGRAMS EXISTED.

THIS ONE CAME ABOUT BECAUSE OUR GUYS WERE AT A FUNERAL FOR ONE OF THE TWO SUICIDES THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE, AND WHEN THEY SAID HEY, WHEN IS THE NEXT TIME WE'LL SEE EACH OTHER, THERE WAS KIND OF A SOMBER MOMENT AND A REALIZATION THAT THAT MIGHT BE THE NEXT FUNERAL.

AND SO SARAH VERARDO, THE CEO OF THE INDY FUND WAS AT THAT FUNERAL AS WELL.

HER HUSBAND WAS AN MPT IN OUR COMPANY.

THAT'S THE IDEA THAT GREW UP TO BE PARTNERED WITH THE V.A. TO HAVE SUCH A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE FOR THESE GUYS, AND HOPEFULLY FOR MANY, MANY ORGANIZATIONS AFTER OURS.

ALEX, WHEN IT COMES TO, AS YOU WERE SAYING, THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE VISIBLE WOUNDS AND PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE VISIBLE WOUNDS, OR INVISIBLE WOUNDS, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU FIND WAS ONE OF THE MORE HEALING EXPERIENCES OF BEING ABLE TO SHARE WITH PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T HAVE THE VISIBLE WOUNDS, BUT ABLE THE STILL CONNECT WITH THEM AND SAY I STILL UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE GOING THROUGH, EVEN THOUGH THE PUBLIC ISN'T OBVIOUSLY SEEING IT?

LIKE I SAID, THE ONES WITH VISIBLE WOUNDS, WE'RE LUCKY TO HAVE THE COMMUNITY.

WE HAVE A LOT OF SUPPORT BY THE COMMUNITY, WHICH MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE HEALING.

BUT YOU STILL GET TO A POINT WHERE YOU ISOLATE YOURSELF AND YOU START FACING YOUR INNER DEMONS AND STUFF.

FOR ME TO BE ABLE TO OPEN UP TO MY BROTHERS I SERVED WITH AND TELL THEM LOOK, MAN, I WITH US IN A REALLY TOUGH SPOT, AND I DIDN'T CALL YOU GUYS.

SO WE NEED TO GET BETTER AT THAT I THOUGHT WAS VERY REWARDING FOR ME, BECAUSE A LOT OF GUYS WE FOUND OUT THAT WERE IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS THAT ARE NOW SEEKING HELP FROM IT.

IS THIS THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION WHERE A LOT OF TIMES PEOPLE SAY WHEN SOMEONE IS IN CRISIS THAT REALLY THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN REALLY HELP THEM IS THEM?

IS THIS SOMETHING WHERE FAMILIES CAN REACH OUT AND SAY WE HAVE A RETURNING OF A VETERAN WHO HAS RETURNED AND THEY'RE STRUGGLING, OR IS IT SOMETHING WHERE THAT VETERAN NEEDS TO TAKE THAT FIRST STEP AND SAY I WANT TO RECONNECT.

I NEED THIS CONNECTION AGAIN?

YES, MA'AM.

SO THE FOCUS OF THIS IS HARNESSING THE POWER OF THE BOND OF THAT SMALL UNIT TO ASSIST THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE COLLECTIVE IN GETTING THROUGH AND COPING WITH THOSE TOUGH TIMES.

SO IF A UNIT WOULD LIKE TO BE A PART OF THIS, A WAY THAT THAT COULD HAPPEN IS BY THE COMMAND TEAM OR SOMEBODY FROM THE UNIT CONTACTING THE INDEPENDENCE FUND THROUGH THE INDEPENDENCEFUND.ORG OR THE V.A. TO SUBMIT A NOMINATION FOR THEIR SMALL UNIT, AND THAT WILL BE LOOKED AT AND BASED OFF OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THAT KIND OF STRESS THAT THEY HOPEFULLY WILL BE AFFORDED THE SAME OPPORTUNITY.

ALL RIGHT.

AND ALEX, JUST WONDERING FOR YOURSELF, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD SAY I GUESS ON A POSITIVE NOTE THAT HAS DEFINITELY CHANGED FOR YOU ONCE YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO REESTABLISH THESE CONNECTIONS?

JUST SEEING ALL THESE GUYS.

THEY SAY THE BEST THERAPY IS LAUGH, AND WE LAUGH SO MUCH OVER THE WEEKEND THAT WE CRIED AT SOME POINTS FROM LAUGHING SO HARD.

I THINK EVERYBODY AGAIN REALIZING THAT THEY WEREN'T GOING THROUGH ALL THIS STUFF ALONE AND THEY WEREN'T WEAK FOR HAVING THE EMOTIONS THEY'RE GOING THROUGH.

THE POSITIVE IS THAT EVERYBODY OPENED UP AND REALIZED THAT IT'S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY.

AND IS THIS SOMETHING THAT WILL BE SERVING ALL BRANCHS TELEPHONE MILITARY?

YES, ABSOLUTELY.

ALL RIGHT, WILL LISTEN, ALEX AND ADAM, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR SHARING NOT ONLY YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US, BUT DEFINITELY WITHIN YOUR UNIT AND MAKING SURE THAT OTHER UNITS HAVE THAT ABILITY TO RECONNECT WITH EACH OTHER.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON OPERATION RESILIENCY, YOU CAN VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

> BUILDING A BOND WITH HIM, HE STARTED DOING STUFF FOR ME THAT HE WASN'T EVEN TRAINED FOR.

NOT TOO LONG AGO, I WITH US IN THERAPY, AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING PRETTY INTENSE.

I GOT VERY PANICKY.

HE GOT UP OFF THE FLOOR AND LITERALLY CLIMBED UP ON TOP OF ME, PUT HIS WEIGHT ON ME AND STARTED LICKING MY FACE.

AND MY THERAPIST STARTED LAUGHING ABOUT IT.

I WENT FROM ALMOST HAVING A PANIC ATTACK TO LAUGHING BECAUSE MY DOG IS LICKING MY FACE.

AN ORGANIZATION THAT PLACES RESCUED ANIMALS WITH VETERANS.

THIS FACILITY IS DESIGNED TO BE THEIR SECOND HOME.

I AM A SPOUSE.

MY FIANCE IS IN THE ARMY.

WE HAVE A 5-YEAR-OLD TOGETHER.

SO I HAD TO DO A DOG WITH MILITARY STYLE WHILE HE WAS AWAY.

IN THE MEANTIME, I KIND OF STARTED DOING THIS, TO HELP WITH ME, TO HELP WITH MY FAMILY.

WE'RE A BIG SUPPORT NETWORK HERE.

WE ALL WORK HAND IN HAND.

WE STARTED FIVE YEARS AGO, PLACING DOGS.

AND WE ARE PROUD OF THE PLACEMENTS.

WE ARE PROUD OF THE LETTERS AND EMAILS AND TEXTS THAT WE GET TALKING ABOUT, HEY, JUST WANT THE SAY HELLO, AND TODAY IS ANOTHER DAY THAT I'M ALIVE, AND I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THIS DOG AND YOU GUYS.

WE'RE GOING TO DO TREATS THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME.

EVENTUALLY TREAT GOES AWAY.

WE'RE GOING TO PUT THAT RIGHT TO HIS NOSE, AND I'M GOING TO LEAD HIM RIGHT TO MY TOES.

WHEN THE GUYS COME HOME, YOU EXPECT THE WORLD FROM THEM BECAUSE THEY EXPECT HOME, RIGHT?

THEY SHOULD BE THE SAME.

NINE OUT OF TEN TIMES THEY'RE NOT.

THEY'VE BEEN THROUGH A TRAUMATIC EVENT.

RAISE IT UP.

SIT.

SO I WANTED TO BECOME A MILITARY POLICE OFFICER.

I HAD TO BE 19.

I WASN'T.

I WAS 17.

SO I TOOK THE NEXT BEST THING.

I JOINED THE MARINE CORPS SECURITY FORCE.

THAT'S A SECONDARY JOB.

YOU TO CHOOSE A PRIMARY JOB.

SO MY PRIMARY JOB WAS INFANTRY.

WHEN I FIRST GOT OUT, THINGS WERE A LITTLE WEIRD FOR ME.

THE SYMPTOMS I HAD ASSOCIATED WITH PTSD WERE NOT REALLY MAJOR AT THE TIME.

IT KIND OF GREW.

LITTLE THINGS GREW FROM SEEDS AND IT GOT BIGGER AND BIGGER AND BIGGER AND WORSE AND WORSE.

SO I STARTED DOING THINGS TO TRY TO COPE WITH IT.

DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT WAS PTSD.

DIDN'T RECOGNIZE IT.

I THOUGHT MAN, IT'S JUST ME.

I'M SCREWED UP.

AND I'D HAVE A NIGHTMARE AND THEN I WOULD BE AFRAID TO GO BACK TO SLEEP.

SO I WOULDN'T GO TO SLEEP FOR TWO DAYS.

I DIDN'T WANT PEOPLE TO SEE ME LIKE THAT.

SO I'D ISOLATE.

I'D STAY HOME FOR TWO OR THREE DAYS UNTIL IT PASSED.

I STARTED TAKING PAIN MEDICATION PRESCRIBE BESIDE MY DOCTOR.

I FOLLOWED THE PRESCRIPTION THAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.

AFTER TIME, I STARTED TAKING IT NOT BECAUSE I WAS IN PAIN, BUT BECAUSE IT MADE ME FEEL BETTER.

I STARTED TAKING IT MORE AND MORE.

I HAD A FEW NIGHTS LOOKING IN THE MIRROR, I CAN'T LIVE MY LIFE LIKE THIS.

SOMETHING IS WRONG.

ONCE I STARTED WORKING WITH THE V.A. AND MEETING OTHER PEOPLE IN GROUPS AND THERAPY IN PROGRAMS, I MET OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE DEALING WITH THE SAME STUFF I WAS, I DIDN'T FEEL SO ALONE ANYMORE.

I FELT HERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO DO GET ME.

THE FIRST PLANE HIT THE TOWER.

THEN WHEN THE SECOND PLANE HIT, THAT'S WHEN MY NATIONAL GUARD UNIT WAS DEPLOYED.

AND WE WERE SHIPPED OUT ON BUSES TO THE OUTSKIRTS OF GROUND ZERO.

AS WE WALKED CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE PILE, IT WAS BURNING.

IT SMELLED REALLY BAD.

PEOPLE WERE SEARCHING IN THE PILE FOR BODY PARTS.

IF WE HAPPENED TO FIND ANY REMAINS, THEN WE WOULD HAVE TO BRING THE PARTS TO THE MORGUE.

I STARTED DRINKING A LOT AT THAT POINT AND USING ILLEGAL DRUGS.

AND IT WAS ALL TO NUMB ALL THE THINGS THAT I WITNESSED.

I STARTED REALIZING IT AS THE PROBLEMS WERE GETTING WORSE.

MY IRRITABILITY WAS GETTING WORSE.

I STARTED GETTING PARANOID, AND WHEN I GOT TO THAT POINT, THAT'S WHEN I WENT TO THE V.A. HOSPITAL IN EAST NORTH PORT AND I GOT HELP.

GREAT JOB.

GOOD JOB.

JAMES IS AN AMAZING INDIVIDUAL.

HE'S THE FIRST TO VOLUNTEER FOR ANY SERVICES.

HE IS THE FIRST TO HELP OUT.

HE IS THE FIRST TO BUILD SOMETHING.

HE IS THE FIRST TO COLLECT DOG FOOD AND BRING IT US TO.

HE'S ALWAYS BEEN ACTIVE IN HIS COMMUNITY.

GUARDIAN'S A RESCUE, RESCUED 11 PUPPIES FROM LOUISIANA AND DONATED TO PAWS FOR VETERANS.

THEY WERE IN A HURRICANE, AND IN LOUISIANA, THEY WERE GOING TO EUTHANIZE ALL 11 OF THEM.

STARTING OUT WITH HIM, IT'S STARTING OUT WITH, LIKE, A NEW CHILD, BUT IT'S A PUPPY, AND NOW YOU HAVE TO MOLD IT.

I MET SOMEONE NAMED TODD WHO WAS A MEMBER OF PAWS OF WAR AND WHO HAD A SERVICE DOG.

ONCE I MET TODD AND SAW HOW MUCH A SERVICE DOG WAS GIVING HIM, I THOUGHT WOW, MAYBE A SERVICE DOG OBE GOOD.

HIS DOG HELPED ME SO MUCH BECAUSE IT'S A FULLY TRAINED SERVICE DOG THAT I WAS LOOKING AFTER AND TAKING WITH ME EVERYWHERE.

IT WAS FANTASTIC.

AND I STARTED SMILING AGAIN AND I STARTED LAUGHING AGAIN, AND IT WAS PRETTY COOL.

I SAID WHAT'S THE CHANCES THAT I CAN GET A DOG?

AND THEY SAID I THINK THE CHANCES ARE PRETTY GOOD.

SO I PUT AN APPLICATION IN, I WENT THROUGH THE PROCESS THAT I'M NOW IN CHARGE OF, AND I GOT ROCKY.

ROCKY HAS JUST EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS.

I MEAN, HE IS VERY WELL-TRAINED.

HE IS A VERY GOOD DOG.

I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER WITH ROCKY.

NOW HARRY IS PART OF MY CLASS, AND HE IS GOING FOR THE REST OF THE BADGES FOR ROCKY.

AND WE'RE TAKING HIM THROUGH ALL THE LEVELS, AND THEY'RE VERY GOOD STUDENTS.

EVERY CLASS IS AT LEAST FOUR TO SIX DOGS, IF NOT MORE.

OTHER GUYS SAY THEIR WORK SCHEDULE IS TOO HECTIC, WE CAN BRING THE VETERINARIAN TO THE SERVICE DOG WE NEED.

IF ANYONE NEEDS HELP WITH DRUGS OR SUBSTANCE ABUSE ISSUES, WE DO HAVE A LIAISON THAT CAN DIRECT THEM IN THE RIGHT FACILITY TO GET THEM IN THE DIRECTION THEY NEED SO WE CAN GET THE SERVICE AROUND IT AS WELL.

YOU WANT ME TO WORK WITH ROCKY FOR A SECOND?

TAKE A BREAK?

SERVICE DOG IS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR ARM.

SERVICE DOG MEANS THAT THE SERVICE DOG HAS A JOB TO DO AND MUST BE ATTACHED TO SAID SERVICE PERSONS.

HE'S JUST THERE.

EVEN IF I'M DREAMING AT NIGHT AND I'M SWEATING AND STUFF, HE'LL COME OVER TO ME, HE'LL POUNCE ON ME, HE'LL LICK MY FACE.

HE'LL WAKE ME UP FROM MY DREAM.

HE GOES TO SCHOOL WITH ME.

HE IS TRAINED TO LAY DOWN OR SIT.

I TELL HIM THE COMMANDS, DEPENDING ON WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE CLASSROOM, AND HE STAYS THERE.

HE DOESN'T CARRY NOTES OR BOOKS.

MOST OF THESE DOGS IN THE BEGINNING, ONCE WE TRAIN THAT CONNECTION THEY START TO TRIGGER.

AND I START TO SHOW THE GUYS WHEN THEIR DOG IS TRIGGERING THAT.

YOU'LL SEE IT.

VERY EARLY STAGES OF TRAINING, IF WE HAVE THE RIGHT FIT.

ROCKY, SIT.

GOOD BOY.

I PICKED HIM UP.

I DIDN'T TOUCH ANY OTHER PUPPY.

I WANT HIM.

I KNEW HE WAS THE ONE FOR ME.

HE WAS NICE AND CALM.

HE WAS CONSOLING ME RIGHT AWAY.

HE IS JUST NESTLED UP TO ME, AND HE DIDN'T WANT TO GET OFF MY LAP.

YOU KNOW?

AND EVEN NOW STILL, HE FOLLOWS ME EVERYWHERE.

FREE TIME?

OKAY.

BE FREE!

LEAVE IT.

WHEN THE VEST IS OFF, THE DOG CAN BE A NORMAL DOG.

ROCKY!

WHEN THE VEST IS ON, THE DOG IS IN WORKING MODE.

SO THE DOG DOES KNOW THE DIFFERENCE OF WHEN HE NEEDS TO BE DOING HIS JOB AND WHEN IT'S OFF THE CLOCK TIME.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE VETERANS ARE INTERESTED IN AN ORGANIZATION THAT A DOG REALLY WILL BE A GOOD FIT, AND THAT THEY ARE RECEIVING CARE ALREADY.

IF A VETERAN COMES TO US AND THEY HAVE PTSD AND IT'S NEVER BEEN DIAGNOSED, THEY'RE NOT GETTING OUTSIDE HELP FOR IT, THEN THAT'S WHERE OUR PEER SPECIALIST WILL COME IN AND POINT THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, SAY LISTEN, THIS IS REALLY WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED.

GOOD BOY.

US HERE AT PAWS OF WAR, WE'RE JUST OTHER VETERANS THAT HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS.

EVERYONE IS AFFECTED A DIFFERENT WAY.

THE FACT THAT THEY ARE THIS HONORABLE UNIFORM, SOMETIMES IT'S VERY HARD FOR THEM TO ACCEPT THAT THAT IS WHO THEY ARE NOW.

AND THAT'S THE BIGGEST HURDLE THAT A LOT OF THESE GUYS GO THROUGH.

WITH THE DOG, ANOTHER THERAPEUTIC HAND IN THAT, IT HELPS THEM MORE EASILY TRANSITION AND ACCEPT WHAT THEY'RE GOING THROUGH, AND BE ABLE TO PROCEED FORWARD AND LIVE A MORE FULFILLED LIFE.

WELL, YOU ALWAYS HAVE A FRIEND.

YOU'LL NEVER BE LONELY.

YOU ALWAYS HAVE SOMEONE THE TALK TO.

THEY MIGHT NOT TALK BACK.

BUT THEY'RE THERE FOR YOU, WHEN YOU'RE HAVING THOSE HARD MOMENTS OR THOSE DOWN TIMES.

YOU'LL ALWAYS HAVE A FRIEND WITH YOU.

A SERVICE FOR US, THIS IS OUR SERVICE FOR YOU, AND WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL FOR IT.

SO THIS IS OUR GIFT BACK TO THOSE WHO HAVE DONE A GIFT BIGGER THAN WE COULD EVER ASK FOR.

♪ ♪ ♪

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019