MetroFocus: September 29, 2022

Encore: November 11, 2022

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, each day on average 20 veterans take their own lives.  To bring awareness to this crisis, on October 1 – BraveHearts, the leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans, will embark on its annual “Trail to Zero” ride in New York City.  Veterans will make a 20-mile journey on horseback through the streets of New York City – one mile for every veteran lost to suicide daily.  Tonight, BraveHearts Administrative Director Jeanna Sorgani and Marine Corps veteran Ben Jalove join us to talk about the ride, as well as the benefits of equine therapy for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

They are the four-legged companions helping the nation’s veterans recover from the emotional effects of war. 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, HOW THE SPECIAL BOND BETWEEN HUMANS AND ANIMALS IS HELPING VETERANS COPE WITH THE TRAUMA OF WAR FROM HORSE THERAPY TO RESCUE DOGS WE HEAR FROM TWO GROUNDBREAKING ORGANIZATIONS AND THE VETERANS THAT SAY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS SAVING LIVES.

A 'METROFOCUS' SPECIAL STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

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

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON, BERNARDED AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

THE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS AFFECTING MILITARY VETERANS IS WELL AND PAINFULLY DOCUMENTED.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, CONDITIONS THAT DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECT THOSE WHO HAVE WORN THE UNIFORM FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

AND WHILE THE SEARCH FOR A CURE TO CONDITIONS SUCH AS PTSD CONTINUES A GROWING BODY OF RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT ANIMAL THERAPY COULD GREATLY HELP RELIEVE THE SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS.

TONIGHT WE'LL EXPLORE HOW COUNTLESS VETERANS HAVE FOUND HEALING THROUGH THEIR SPECIAL BOND WITH ANIMALS.

LATER IN THE SHOW, WE'LL GO INSIDE A PROGRAM CALLED PAWS OF WAR, AN ORGANIZATION THAT TRAINS AND PLACES RESCUE DOGS WITH VETERANS.

FIRST, WE EXPLORE THE MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF EQUINE THERAPY.

WITH THE FOLKS FROM BRAVEHEARTS, AN ORGANIZATION THAT OFFERS FREE HORSEMANSHIP PROGRAMS FOR VETERANS.

THE GROUP ALSO LEADS A YEARLY HORSEBACK RIDE THROUGH MIDTOWN MANHATTAN TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT THE HIGH RATE OF VETERAN SUICIDE.

AN AVERAGE OF 20 VETERANS TAKE THEIR OWN LIVES EVERY DAY.

HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION, HOW HORSES CAN HELP WITH MENTAL HEALTH AS WELL AS THE TRAIL TO ZERO RIDE IS FIRST BRAVEHEARTS DIRECTOR JEANNA SORGANI AND MARINE CORPS VETERAN BEN JALOVE.

WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU AND THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANKS.

THANK YOU.

SO JEANNA, I'M GOING TO GET TO BENEFITS IN A MOMENT AND THEN WE'LL TALK WITH BEN ALSO, BUT LET'S START WITH THE ORGANIZATION, BRAVEHEARTS, HOW DID IT COME TO BE?

YEAH.

SO BRAVEHEARTS WAS ESTABLISHED IN 2002 AND SO BRAVEHEARTS REALLY CAME ABOUT FROM OUR FOUNDER MARGE GUNNER.

MARGE HAD CANCER AND HAD A BOND WITH HER HORSE PRIOR TO CANCER BUT THROUGH CANCER SHE REALLY FOUND THE HEALING SHE WAS GETTING FROM THE HORSE, AND SO A COUPLE YEARS LATER SHE MEETS DR.

ROLFE GUNNER, AND HE BECOMES NOT ONLY HER LIFE PART BUT THE CO-FOUNDER OF BRAVEHEARTS.

DR. GUNNER HAD THE VISION FOR THE VETERANS.

MARGE HAD IT IN HER HEART HORSES CAN HELP HEAL PEOPLE.

DR. GUNNER BEING A KOREAN WAR MEDIC AND A DECORATED VETERAN, HE REALLY HAD THE VISION FOR VETERANS BECAUSE HE SAW ONCE HE CAME TO THE FARM WITH MARGE HE REALLY SAW THE BENEFITS THAT HORSES CAN HAVE ON PEOPLE, AND HE RELATED IT TO HIS EXPERIENCE IN THE MILITARY AND THOUGHT WHEN HE CAME BACK FROM THE WAR, THERE WASN'T ANYTHING FOR HIM.

THERE WAS NO RECREATION, THERE WAS NO, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS THERAPY, BUT THERE WAS NOTHING LIKE THIS, NOTHING THAT TOOK A HORSE AND TOOK AN ANIMAL AND REALLY CREATED A BOND, SOMETHING YOU WOULDN'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON INSIDE, BUT YOU WERE ABLE TO GET THOSE BENEFITS FROM THE HORSES.

WE CAN DIP INTO THOSE BENEFITS HERE AND BEN WILL HELP US UNDERSTAND THOSE BENEFITS AS WELL.

LET'S DO THAT.

LET'S DO THAT NOW.

I'LL START WITH YOU, JEANNA, AND BEN BRING YOU IN THE CONVERSATION, BUT JEANNA, TALK ABOUT WHAT IS BEING DISCOVERED HERE AND WHAT HAS EVOLVED IN TERMS OF THE BENEFITS OF THIS RELATIONSHIP?

YEAH.

SO BRAVEHEARTS OFFERS INNOVATIVE PROGRAMMING USING HORSES, OBVIOUSLY, RIGHT, BUT WE OFFER EQUINE ASSISTED SERVICES, IS THE TERM IT'S KNOWN AS, AND THERE'S A RECREATIONAL COMPONENT TO IT AND A THERAPY SIDE OF IT.

BUT WE FIND THAT WITH MANY VETERANS THAT ENTER THE PROGRAM THEY FALL INTO THE RECREATIONAL SIDE.

THEY ARE BEING INSTRUCTED BY A LOT OF TIMES FELLOW VETERANS WHO HAVE ALSO GONE THROUGH THE PROCESS OF BECOMING INSTRUCTORS AND TAUGHT HORSEMANSHIP SKILLS.

THROUGH THOSE HORSEMANSHIP SKILLS THEY ARE ABLE TO START HAVING A LOT OF OTHER BENEFITS LIKE BUILDING TRUST WITH A HORSE, HAVING THE SOCIAL COMRADERY WITH FELLOW VETERANS WHO ARE ALSO IN THE LESSON WITH THEM.

THEY'RE ABLE TO BUILD CONFIDENCE.

THEY'RE ABLE TO INTEGRATE INTO THE COMMUNITY.

THERE ARE -- THERE'S PHYSICAL AND MENTAL AND COGNITIVE BENEFITS AS WELL.

ANYBODY I THINK CAN RELATE TO THIS LEARNING ANY NEW SKILL, BEING ABLE TO BUILD CONFIDENCE.

WITH A HORSE, IT REALLY -- THE UNIQUE THING ABOUT A HORSE IT REALLY MAGNIFIES REALLY THE HORSE MAGNIFIES WHAT IS A MIRROR TO YOURSELF.

IT MAGNIFIES HOW YOU'RE FEELING.

IF YOU --

HOW DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN AROUND HORSES OR NEVER RIDDEN, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IT BECOMES A MIRROR OF YOURSELF?

IT'S INTERESTING, UNTIL YOU TRULY EXPERIENCE IT, I THINK YOU'LL FULLY UNDERSTAND IT.

I'M GOING TO TRY TO EXPLAIN IT AND BEN CAN HELP TELL HIS EXPERIENCE OF WHEN HE FIRST -- AT HIS FIRST RIDING LESSON.

WHAT A HORSE DOES IS, YOU KNOW, A HORSE IS A PREY ANIMAL SO A HORSE IS PROGRAMMED TO RUNAWAY FROM THINGS THAT ARE NOT NORMAL, THAT ARE GOING TO BE FEARFUL FOR THEM.

IF YOU COME IN WITH A LOT OF ENERGY TO A LESSON, IF YOU'RE -- YOU SIT ON TOP OF A HORSE AND YOU'RE REALLY ANXIOUS THE HORSE FEELS THAT AND MIRROR IT.

THEY TAKE IT ON AND SAY WHAT'S WRONG.

THAT HORSE, WHEN YOU'RE WITH THAT HORSE YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THEIR HERD.

IF YOU'RE SCARED THEY'RE ALSO THINKING, WHY?

WHY ARE WE SCARED?

SO YOU HAVE TO BE ON TOP OF A HORSE OR ON THE GROUND WHERE WE OFFER BOTH AT BRAVEHEARTS, YOU HAVE TO CHANNEL YOUR QUIET YOUR MIND, QUIET YOUR HEART, TRY TO, YOU KNOW, RELIEVE THAT STRESS THAT YOU MIGHT BE HAVING BEFORE YOU GOT TO THE FARM, SO THAT THAT HORSE CAN ALSO BE BETTER IN THE LESSON.

OTHERWISE, THE HORSE IS GOING TO ALSO RESPOND THAT WAY.

SO A LOT OF TIMES, YOU KNOW, WHEN A VETERAN IS ON A HORSE AND SAY WHY IS THE HORSE DOING THAT WE ASK THE QUESTION OF WELL, YOU KNOW, WHAT'S GOING ON?

IS THERE SOMETHING GOING ON WITH YOU?

ARE YOU FEELING TIGHT?

ARE YOU FEELING ANXIOUS?

HAVE YOU TAKEN A BREATH.

A LOT OF TIMES YOU NOTICE WHEN YOU TAKE A DEEP BREATH THAT HORSE WILL ALSO DROP AND TAKE A BREATH WITH YOU

FASCINATING TO SEE THAT RELATIONSHIP, THE SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE RIDER AND THE HORSE.

TOTALLY.

IT'S AWESOME TO EXPERIENCE IT.

AND I THINK WHEN A VETERAN REALIZES THAT, I THINK THAT IS WHAT, YOU KNOW, I THINK IN THE MOMENT THAT REALLY CONNECTS THEM TO THE HORSE.

THEY SEE THAT SO MANY TIMES THE VETERAN, I HEAR VETERANS SAY I WANT TO BE BETTER, I WANT TO FEEL BETTER, FOR THE HORSE.

SO IF YOU COME AT A HORSE WITH A LOT OF ENERGY IF YOU'RE ANGRY, THAT HORSE DOESN'T WANT TO BE AROUND YOU.

I THINK AS PEOPLE, ALL WE WANT IS TO BE AROUND OTHER PEOPLE AND ESPECIALLY OTHER ANIMALS.

SURE.

BEN, THIS NOW BRINGS YOU INTO OUR CONVERSATION HERE.

A MARINES CORPS VETERAN, DEPLOYED AROUND THE WORLD.

WHAT INITIALLY DREW YOU TO BRAVEHEARTS, TO THIS PROGRAM?

WELL, IT WAS A PHONE CALL.

I GOT A PHONE CALL BACK IN 2019, MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER, AND A FAMILY FRIEND HAD GOTTEN MY INFORMATION AND GAVE IT TO THE PRESIDENT OF BRAVEHEARTS AND I GOT A PHONE CALL FROM HER ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

SHE ASKED IF I WAS WILLING TO BE AROUND A FEW HORSES FOR VETERAN SERVICES AND I SAID, YOU KNOW, I REALLY NEVER TOOK PART IN ANY VETERAN SERVICES, BESIDES THE VA, VETERAN AFFAIRS, FOR THERAPY FOR MY PTSD, AND SUICIDE.

SO I SAID, YOU KNOW, I GOT TO GIVE IT A SHOT.

MAYBE THIS WILL WORK INSTEAD OF GOING AND TALKING TO SOMEONE ABOUT MY EMOTIONS AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.

SO LO AND BEHOLD, A WEEK LATER I FOUND MYSELF AT HARBORDALE AND MET MEGHAN AT THE GATE AND SHE BROUGHT ME INTO THE BARN.

I MET A WONDERFUL HORSE NAMED HANK, AND I COULD SAY THE STORY IS WRITTEN FROM THERE, BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT TO GET DOWN TO IS YOURSELF AND JEANNA SAID ABOUT GETTING YOUR ENERGY AND THE HORSE MIRRORING YOUR ENERGY.

RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT WHEN I MET HANK IN THE ALLEYWAY OF THE BARN, MY HEART WAS RACING.

I WASN'T FAMILIAR WITH THE AREA.

CAN I INTERRUPT ONE SECOND.

HAD YOU EVER RIDDEN HORSES BEFORE?

BY MYSELF NO.

OKAY.

WHEN I WAS A KID I RODE MAYBE A COUPLE TIMES HERE AND THERE IN BOY SCOUTS WITH HORSES.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IT'S YOU AND A HORSE FOR A REASON BEING PUT TOGETHER?

YES, SIR.

WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU FIRST CLIMBED ABOARD AND BECAME PART OF THE SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP YOU AND HANK?

I WAS LIKE WHY AM I HERE.

YOU KNOW, A WHOLE LOT.

YOU KNOW, IN ORDER FOR -- I SAID TO MYSELF, TO GET BETTER, I HAVE TO GIVE A LITTLE.

I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP FORWARD.

OPEN THAT DOOR AND WALK THROUGH IT, AND IT FELT LIKE ANSWERING THAT PHONE CALL WAS THAT DOOR THAT I NEEDED TO OPEN AND WALK FORWARD.

BEING IN THAT BARN AND BEING WITH HANK INSTANTLY SAW THE MIRROR IMAGE.

HE STARTED TO BACK UP BECAUSE MY ANXIETY WAS THROUGH THE ROOF AND MY HEART WAS RACING.

YOU KNOW, SINCE THEN, I'VE HEARD THAT HORSES WILL TRY TO DO THEIR BEST TO MATCH YOUR HEART RATE, AND REALIZING THAT, THAT THEIR HEART RATE WAS TRYING TO MATCH MY HEART RATE AND WHEN THE FIRST TIME I MET HIM, REALLY GOES TO SHOW THAT MIRROR IMAGE.

I MEAN, LIKE JEANNA WAS SAYING WITH HERD ANIMALS AND THAT HERD I'VE NEVER BEEN PART OF AND THEY'RE ACTING --

NOW YOU'RE A PART OF THAT HERD.

BEN, TELL US HOW, FROM THAT FIRST MOMENT YOU BECAME INVOLVED WITH HANK, HOW HAS IT HELPED YOU?

WELL, IT'S DONE NUMEROUS THINGS.

FOR INSTANCE, MY PTSD AND MAIN TRIGGER IS CHILDREN.

FOR MY DEPLOYMENT, I STRUGGLED WITH BABIES FROM A YOUNG AGE, NEWBORNS ALL THE WAY UP TO I WOULD SAY 9, 10 YEARS OLD, AND SINCE I'VE BEEN WITH BRAVEHEARTS, THEY'VE GIVEN ME THE -- I SHOULDN'T SAY THEY'VE GIVEN ME, THEY INSTILLED THAT COURAGE AND, YOU KNOW, LIFE BACK INTO ME, LIKE LIFE GOES ON.

IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM.

THERE'S SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IN LIFE, YOU KNOW.

THERE'S SOMETHING VERY BEAUTIFUL IN A HORSE THAT CAN MIRROR YOUR IMAGE AND ENERGY.

SO THEY'VE REALLY GIVEN ME THAT OPPORTUNITY TO REJOICE IN LIFE AND TO LIVE ON AND SINCE THEN, I NOW HAVE TWO BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GIRLS OF MY OWN

THAT'S WONDERFUL.

AND THAT ARE NOT A TRIGGER FOR ME ANYMORE.

AS WHERE THEY WERE BEFORE.

YEAH.

YOU KNOW, I WAS A MOTOR TRANSPORTATION OPERATOR AND I REALLY NEVER REALLY LIKED TO DRIVE WHEN I GOT OUT OF THE SERVICE, AND NOW, I'M ON BRAVEHEARTS' INSURANCE AND DRIVING HORSES TO NEW YORK CITY.

IT'S A GOOD STORY.

YEAH.

TO HEAR IN TERMS OF WHAT IT'S DONE FOR YOU.

I GOT ABOUT THREE MINUTES LEFT HERE AND WANT TO GET A COUPLE THINGS IN QUICKLY IF I CAN.

JEANNA, TELL US QUICKLY IF YOU WOULD ABOUT THE RIDE.

HOW DID IT COME ABOUT AND WHAT'S THE POINT BEHIND IT?

TRAIL TO ZERO STARTED IN 2017 AND THE WHOLE POINT WAS TO BRING AWARENESS AND PREVENTION FOR THESE 20 VETERANS WE LOSE EVERY DAY WHO DIE BY SUICIDE, SO THIS RIDE WAS A WAY THAT VETERANS AT BRAVEHEARTS AND REALLY VETERANS ACROSS THE WORLD, ACROSS THE COUNTRY, CAN COME TOGETHER AND RIDE FOR THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

WE'RE TRYING TO BRING LIGHT TO LET OTHER VETERANS KNOW AND LET OTHER VETERAN FAMILY MEMBERS KNOW THAT EQUINE ASSISTED SERVICES MAY BE AN ANSWER THAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR TO HELP THEM WITH PTSD AND TO HOPEFULLY HELP TO END SUICIDE.

SO OUR GOAL IS TO RIDE UNTIL THAT NUMBER IS ZERO.

YEAH.

AND I KNOW THAT THERE'S GREAT COOPERATION WITH THE NYPD.

MANY OF WHOM MEMBERS ARE VETERANS THEMSELVES.

YES.

SO THE NYPD IS INCREDIBLE.

THERE'S NO WAY WE WOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS RIDE WITHOUT THEM.

WE RIDE THROUGH CENTRAL PARK, TIMES SQUARE.

THEY ARE -- THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.

I MEAN IT'S INCREDIBLE WHAT THEY DO FOR US TO HELP US BRING AWARENESS FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION.

YEAH.

AND LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, JEANNA, FOR SOMEBODY WHO IS WATCHING THIS, EITHER FOR THEMSELVES OR SOMEBODY THEY'RE CLOSE TO, THEY SAY, I SEE MYSELF OR I SEE MY LOVED ONE IN BEN AND HIS STORY, AND I WOULD LOVE TO GET -- BEN WAS INTERESTING, SAID MIGHT NOT BE THE ANSWER BUT CAN BE AN ANSWER FOR PEOPLE, SO WHAT CAN YOU SAY TO THEM IN TERMS OF HOW -- WHERE DO THEY GO NOW TO FIND YOUR GROUP AND HELP?

YEAH.

SO BRAVEHEARTS PROVIDES ALL SERVICES TO VETERANS AND A MEMBER OF THEIR FAMILY AT NO COST.

LAST YEAR WE SERVED 799 VETERANS ACROSS 24 STATES AND PROVIDED OVER 9,000 HORSE OF SERVICE AT NO COST.

THAT'S THE RECREATIONAL SIDE OF IT.

AN INSTRUCTOR IS TEACHING YOU HORSEMANSHIP SKILLS AND A THERAPY COMPONENT IF THEY CHOOSE.

ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY OR WORLD THAT WANTS TO GET INVOLVED WITH EQUINE ASSISTED SERVICES BRAVEHEARTS HAS A DATABASE TO CONNECT YOU OR YOUR FAMILY MEMBER WITH A CENTER NEAR YOU.

A PATH ACCREDITED CENTERS.

WE HAVE OTHER CENTERS WE CAN CONNECT THEM WITH.

WE HAVE A TRANSPORTATION GRANT THAT ALLOWS THEM TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IF THEY WANT TO COME TO BRAVEHEARTS WE CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN

IT'S A MARVELOUS STORY OF DOING WONDERFUL WORK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESERVE OUR ATTENTION AND HELP.

BEN, YOU ARE A GREAT STORY YOURSELF.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

WE'RE PLEASED WHAT YOU'VE DONE AND JEANNA, AND ALL OF YOU AT THE ORGANIZATION, GOOD LUCK.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING WITH YOU AGAIN IN THE FUTURE.

TAKE CARE NOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

OUR WEBSITE IS BRAVEHEARTSRIDING.ORG.

GREAT.

ALL RIGHT.

BE WELL.

THANK YOU, SIR.

THANK YOU.

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

NOT TOO LONG AGO I WAS IN THERAPY AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING PRETTY INTENSE AND I GOT VERY PANICKY.

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

MY THERAPIST AND I STARTED LAUGHING ABOUT IT, FROM A PANIC ATTACK TO LAUGHING BECAUSE MY TALK DOG IS LICKING MY FACE.

PAWS PLACES RESCUED ANIMALS WITH VETERANS.

THIS FACILITY IS DESIGNED TO BE THEIR SECOND HOME.

I AM A FUTURE MILITARY SPOUSE.

MY FIANCEE IS IN THE ARMY.

WE HAVE A 5-YEAR-OLD CHILD TOGETHER.

I HAD TO DO THE JOB OF MILITARY SPOUSE WHILE HE WAS AWAY.

IN THE MEANTIME I KIND OF STARTED DOING THIS TO HELP WITH ME AND 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 PLACEMENT.

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

TREAT THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME.

OKAY.

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 CAME HOME, RIGHT, THEY SHOULD BE THE SAME, BUT NINE OUT OF TEN THEY'RE NOT.

THEY'VE BEEN THROUGH A TRAUMATIC EVENT.

WHEN IT HITS YOUR HAND YES, RAISE IT UP, SIT.

I WANT TO BECOME A MILITARY POLICE OFFICER.

I HAD TO BE 19.

I WAS 17.

I TOOK NEXT BEST THING AND JOINED THE MARINES CORPS SECURITY FORCES A SECONDARY JOB.

YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE A PRIMARY JOB.

MY PRIMARY JOB WAS INFANTRY.

WHEN I FIRST GOT OUT THINGS WERE WEIRD FOR ME.

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

IT KIND OF GREW.

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

I STARTED DOING THINGS TO COPE WITH IT, DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS PTSD.

I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME, I'M SCREWED UP.

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

I WOULDN'T GO TO SLEEP FOR TWO DAYS.

I DIDN'T WANT PEOPLE TO SEE ME LIKE THAT SO I WOULD ISOLATE AND STAY HOME TWO OR THREE DAYS UNTIL IT PASSED.

I STARTED TAKING PAIN MEDICATION, PRESCRIBED FROM MY DOCTOR.

I FOLLOWED A PRESCRIPTION THAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO BUT AFTER TIME, I STARTED TAKING IT NOT BECAUSE I WAS IN PAIN, BECAUSE IT WAS MAKING ME FEEL BETTER.

I STARTED TAKING MORE AND MORE.

I JUST HAD A FEW NIGHTS THAT I WOULD JUST LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SAID I CAN'T LIVE MY LIFE LIKE THIS.

ONCE I STARTED WORKING WITH THE VA AND MEETING OTHER PEOPLE IN GROUPS AND IN THERAPY AND IN PROGRAMS, I MET OTHER PEOPLE THAT WERE DEALING WITH THE SAME STUFF AS I WAS.

I DIDN'T FEEL SO ALONE ANYMORE.

I FELT LIKE WOW, HERE'S OTHER PEOPLE THAT 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 BUSSES 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.

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

I STARTED REALIZING IT AS THE PROBLEMS WERE GETTING WORSE.

MY IR RIT TABLTS WAS GETTING WORSE.

I STARTED GETTING PARANOID.

AND WHEN I GOT TO THAT POINT, THAT'S WHEN I WENT TO THE VA HOSPITAL IN EAST NORTHPORT AND GOT HELP.

GOOD JOB.

JAMES IS AN AMAZING INDIVIDUAL.

HE'S THE FIRST TO VOLUNTEER FOR ANY SERVICES.

HE'S THE FIRST TO HELP OUT.

HE'S THE FIRST TO BUILD SOMETHING.

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

HE'S ALWAYS BEEN ACTIVE IN HIS COMMUNITY.

GUARDIANS OF RESCUE RESCUED 11 PUPPIES FROM LOUISIANA AND THEN DONATED TO PAWS OF WAR FOR THE 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.

NOW YOU HAVE TO MOLD IT.

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

ONCE I MET TODD AND SAW HOW MUCH THE SERVICE DOG WAS GIVING HIM, MAYBE A SERVICE DOG WOULD BE GOOD.

THIS WAS EARLY WHEN I FIRST STARTED IDENTIFYING EVERYTHING.

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

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

SO I SAID YOU KNOW, WHAT'S THE CHANCES THAT I CAN GET A DOG?

THEY SAID, I THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE PRETTY GOOD.

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

ROCKY HAS JUST EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS.

I MEAN HE'S VERY WELL TRAINED.

HE'S A VERY GOOD DOG.

I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER WITH ROCKY.

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

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

EVERY CLASS IS FOUR TO SIX DOGS IF NOT MORE.

IF ANY OF THE GUY SAY THE WORK SCHEDULE IS TOO HECTIC WE'LL HELP WITH DOG WALKING.

WE CAN BRING THE VETERINARIAN TO THE SERVICE DOG IN NEED.

IF ANYONE NEEDS HELP WITH DRUG 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, YOU KNOW, SERVICE WELL ROUNDED AS WELL.

WORK WITH ROCK CU AND TAKE A BREAK.

OKAY.

SERVICE DOG IS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR DOG.

SERVICE DOG MEANS THE SERVICE DOG HAS A JOB TO DO AND MUST BE ATTACHED TO SUCH SERVICE PERSON'S HIP

HE'S THERE.

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

HE'LL WAKE ME UP FROM MY DREAM.

HE GOES TO SCHOOL WITH ME.

HE'S 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 MUTUAL CONNECTION THEY START TO TRIGGER AND SHOW THE GUYS WHEN THEIR DOG YOU TRIGGERING THAT BECAUSE 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.

AND I KNEW THAT HE WAS THE ONE FOR ME.

HE WAS NICE AND CALM.

HE WAS CONSOLING ME RIGHT AWAY.

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

EVEN NOW STILL HE FOLLOWS ME EVERYWHERE.

FREE TIME.

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, YOU KNOW, OFF THE CLOCK TIME.

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

IF A VETERAN HAS PTSD AND NEVER DIAGNOSED, NEVER SEEN, NOT GETTING OUTSIDE HELP FOR IT, THAT'S WHERE OUR PEER SPECIALIST WILL COME IN AND POINT THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND SAY THIS IS REALLY WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED.

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

EVERYONE IS AFFECTED A DIFFERENT WAY.

THE FACT THAT -- IT'S HARD TO ACCEPT THAT'S WHO THEY ARE NOW.

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

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

YOU ALWAYS HAVE A FRIEND.

YOU'LL NEVER BE LONELY.

YOU HAVE SOMEONE TO TALK TO.

THEY MIGHT NOT TALK BACK, BUT THEY'RE THERE FOR YOU WHEN YOU'RE HAVING THE HARD MOMENTS OR DOWN TIMES.

YOU ALWAYS HAVE A FRIEND WITH YOU.

THIS IS OUR SERVICE FOR YOU AND THAT WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL FOR IT.

THIS IS OUR GIVE BACK TO THOSE WHO HAVE DONE.

IS ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- ♪♪

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