My father, a two time recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart was nine months shy of retirement when he was wounded by a midnight mortar attack in Vietnam. He was struck in the head, chest, abdomen and both legs. He was in and out of the VA hospital for years before succumbing to his wounds in a nursing home. I remember coming home just before heading to basic training and my 68 year old 4’11” mother asking me to help my father use the bathroom. It was then I discovered that she had been exhausting herself by moving him from bed to bath several times a day. She did not want anyone to know he was unable to care for himself because she was afraid she would be unable to drive to see him. I served for six years first as an enlisted man in the medical corps and an instructor at the Army’s Academy of Health Sciences. After OCS I accepted assignment as a munitions officer. After leaving the military I taught university classes on military bases as a literature and psychology professor. I have a 100% service connected disability rating and have counseled and mentored other PTSD sufferers since 1973. My interest in and dedication to veterans and military families is not new. I feel a renewed call to write and share the stories contained in this blog and throughout our social media presence.
Earlier this year, I curated a book this year called In Dogs We Trust. It is a wonderful collection of stories by world-class authors. You can learn much about dogs of all kinds, or just enjoy a good read here:
A few FAQs about this site, Gander’s page at http://facebook.com/ganderservicedog and our upcoming mission:
–He is 3.5 year old Labradoodle. His Birthday, October 12, is the same as mine.
–Gander was rescued from a kill shelter by a prison training program in Colorado.
–He was initially trained by a wonderful woman at a Colorado correctional facility and selected for his career by Freedom Service Dogs in Denver
–He was originally assigned to someone else who turned out to be allergic to him. My good fortune
–He is trained to help me with extreme PTSD/anxiety disorder and autoimmune arthritis.
–He literally saved my life: My heart rate was 120 beats per minute average for two years before we became battle buddies. It is not about 80. I was having night terrors and panic attacks daily and had to take addicting medication to stop symptoms. Life is 100% better with Gander in it.
–Gander is a service dog, but is very social and gregarious. We voluntarily visit hospitals, schools and business events if time and health make it possible.
–He has a LOT of fun and does not always work. He may well be the most spoiled service dog on the planet He is always within a few yards of me, never in harm’s way and a beloved member of our family and a special part of our community in Illinois.
–Someone wrote me today and expressed concern that they often saw pics of Gander without me and often off a leash. Gander does not need a leash and my autoimmune arthritis is often so bad holding one is painful. He is always leashed in areas where people might be frightened by him. He never leaves my side and responds instantly to my requests. As I said, Gander is never more than a few feet away from me. We are completely bonded and the only thing he might love more than me is a bag of tennis balls. ADA regs allow him to be off the leash as long as it is required and he is under control.
–He ran for Hero Dog in 2013 and came in 2nd in the Service Dog category. We have promised never to run in a vanity contest again because of the dearth of ethics in that contest. Please do not ask us to join or support vanity contests. We support good causes 1000% and we happily do articles about products, events or things we love and admire at no charge on Sunday of each week…
–I never dress Gander in costumes. It feels demeaning. He is a member of my family. He does wear a scarf and occasionally we pose with a hat for a special cause or occasion.
More on Me:
–As I said above: Army Vet, son of a decorated career soldier who died from wounds suffered in WWII and Vietnam
–I was medical corps instructor and clinician for six years, I went to OCS and ended my military career as an EOD trained ordnance officer
–I was a certified employee assistance professional (CEAP), hospital clinical director, NEA Fellow in Poetry and professor of Psych and Lit before the PTSD/Anxiety disorder wheels fell off.
–I’m a poet and writer. I won a few national awards before I became too sick to even write. I am now back penning poetry and stories once again–since Gander….
–I am in the boards of several charities and do volunteer consulting for their social media presence. I’ve been doing Internet work since 1979. Yes, ’79 when I was a member of Task Force Delta, a social media style think tank at the US Army War College. It became the model for several current social media platforms.
–I know addiction, poverty, VA battles, suicide, near death from torture and more…. I’ve seen the darkest side of humanity. I survived by doing my best to help other people suffering along with me. I try now to do the same. Gander and a host of loving friends have changed that. Now it’s time to pay back and pay forward.
–Contact me with any questions or concerns. I will always answer. I cannot get back the nearly two decades lost to PTSD and addiction to the drugs the government and VA used to treat me. And I cannot take back anything that happened during that time. All I can hope for is to do the best I can for myself, as well as my family, friends and community. The Chinese have a saying: You cannot cross the same bridge twice. Life is fluid, and internal and external landscapes change. Anyone who wants me to return old crossings, for whatever personal agenda, need to look somewhere else.
This blog and Gander’s Page:
-Is dedicated to Service Dogs, PTSD advocacy and recovery from trauma any kind. It is my prayer that we can impact, even in some small way, the horrifying veteran suicide rate in America. It is epidemic…
–No profanity and no politics are permitted here. I will delete your remarks and ban you immediately.
–We advocate against animal cruelty, untrained service dogs, animal cruelty, and breed specific legislation.
–We advocate for Veteran causes, Service Dogs and Animal Rescue, and for service dog certifications and registration
–We love dogs and people of all types
–Support others with positive comments: DM me with critique or concern.
–No donations are accepted or will me asked for on this wall. We will sell books and special products to fund selected charities and our work. We will always give something of value for your support.
–Pics and stories of your dogs and dog charities are always welcome. Put them on the public wall and I will select some to appear here.
–As I said above, we can’t support vanity vote contests. But, might post a pic of your dog and a link in a comment.
–I will promote your cause or requests on our twitter account where we have 75,000 followers if you have a charity or real and pressing need! This is social media. We’re here to help each other.
–Sundays I will do 3-4 posts of cool products and great organizations on Gander’s facebook page. There is no fee for this. Just DM me if you have something awesome to share.
–I answer DMs or emails within 24 hours of receipt. If you did not hear back from me, I did not see it, so please send again.
Purpose of this Blog and all our social media sites:
–To give hope to people struggling with PTSD from war, trauma, sexual abuse or any life challenge…
–To create a safe refuge on the net where charity, inspiration and positive thinking are the norm
–To reduce Veteran suicide rates by promoting conventional and alternative treatment approaches to trauma recovery from: sexual assault, war, or genetics–as in anxiety disorders.
–To promote service dog education
–To support service dog agencies that care for veterans and civilians
–To aid veterans causes
–To help when and if we can anyone we can. A lot goes on off the wall: support in getting a dog, answers to questions, emotional support, visits to cemeteries and monuments where we will gladly visit a friend or relative’s gravesite, take a pic or get a rubbing of a marker for you if requested. We cannot accept anything more than a “thank you” for any of this work.
In the coming year we will travel the country to collect stories for Operation Fetch 21: Stories of service men and women lost to the wars within….During these travels we will talk to schools, businesses and visit hospitals as time and health allow. Your support in arranging PR, people to interview and places to visit will be needed. The book will be titled Fetch: Travels with Gander
@veterantraveler on Twitter and Instagram
Our book In Dogs We Trust: http://veterantraveler.com/store/products/in-dogs-we-trust