Background of the Rescued Heroes- Veterans Edition Calendars
2014 “Rescued Heroes- Veterans Edition” Calendar
Our First All Veterans Calendar
By Paul Sansale
In 2011, one of our calendar customers directed our attention to how rescued service dogs are helping our returning Veterans with PTSD and TBI and suggested we look at the website PawsAndStripes.org. In a website video, founder and Iraq Veteran, Jim Stanek described what it was like to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He then explained how his rescued service dog Sarge gave him back his life and independence. To watch this YouTube video CLICK HERE.
That video had such an impact on us that we decided to turn the spotlight on these rescued service dogs and the value they offer in healing the “invisible wounds” of our veterans. I am a non-combat Veteran of the Vietnam Era and had heard of both PTSD and TBI but never fully understood what the terms meant until I saw the video.
Lynn and I soon learned that one out of every five Veterans, or 20% returning home will start a new battle with PTSD. And of those with PTSD, one of six will attempt suicide. We are losing 22 Veterans a day to suicide. We found service dog organizations that use well-screened rescued dogs to train alongside Veterans with PTSD and TBI. These organizations introduced us to graduates of their programs who wanted to help get this message out.
These 12 warriors wanted to tell their stories with the hope of helping their fellow Veterans learn the value of service dogs in combating the symptoms of PTSD – especially when all else fails.
In the fall of 2012 we traveled eleven days and 6045 miles to meet the participants for our first 2014 Rescued Heroes – Veterans Edition Calendar.
It was an honor to meet these incredible heroes – including fellow Minnesotan, Ryan and his service dog Spirit stationed Jacksonville, Florida. Ryan was in the Navy at the time. His inspiring story became our month of February. Today Ryan is out of the Navy and has returned to Minnesota, where he resides with Spirit and his family.
Kevin was an Army Veteran we had the pleasure of meeting along with his service dog, Bella, and his wife Lisa at the lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida. Kevin’s combat experience began in 1989 with the Panama Invasion, Just Cause. He finished his service, but later felt “a calling” with 9/11 and returned, serving in Iraq. Kevin tried many things including counseling as he battled with symptoms of PTSD for over twenty years. Nothing worked until he met Bella.
When we met Kevin, he had recently completed his training with Bella. Bella accompanied Kevin to class everyday at Flagler College in St. Augustine. As you can see in this picture, Bellas was at his side for graduation. Kevin’s studies lead him into a career of advocacy for his fellow Veterans.
Our last city was Albuquerque, N.M. where we were able to meet the Veteran that started us on our journey, Jim Stanek and his dog Sarge. Sarge became our cover dog and their story was the month of January.
We are grateful to Jim and his wife Lindsey, CEO of Paws and Stripes, for inspiring us in this new direction. Thanks to Jim and other eleven heroes, we were able to share the stories of how rescued dogs when given a second chance, were able to help our Veterans find a new life.