Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IOWA TROOPS AWAIT "DOG DAYS" AS RETURN IN SIGHT

It's been said, "A Dog is Man's Best Friend".  And I'd probably have to agree, especially with our Golden Retriever looking me in the eye as I write this.  "Okay, Mason....you know you are my best buddy.  You're spoiled, your loved and you've given us more back in return than we've given you, for sure".  Interesting how that is.  We adopted Mason from the Iowa Golden Retriever Rescue League to keep him from being euthanized and he ends up saving us.  How so?  Weeks prior to our adoption of "Mace", we had to put down Nala, our first retriever, who we adopted from the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines, Iowa.  My wife, JoAnne and  I were certain that no dog would ever replace her.  Which of course was true.  But when we least expected it, into our lives came this boy with the big head of Goliath, the large feet of Shaquille O'Neal ....and a Golden heart, literally.  He was our answer in four footed form.  "Brown Thang" (you see we call him a number of things) came to us, not to offer a substitute for Nala, but to enhance her and our relationship with our "best friends".        

Mason awaits a new four-legged Friend,

In the coming weeks, the 2,800 Iowa troops that deployed to Afghanistan will be returning home.  What will be their frame of mind?  How will they begin to cope in connecting with "normal"?  How will they sleep?  Many of those questions are waiting to be answered.   Some soldiers will look for answers in the worst of ways.  Others will look for something to hold onto.   

Our son, Kristopher, tells us of a story of an Afghan dog being adopted by a Iowa soldier and sent back to his family in the states.  Seems like the two became inseparable in Afghanistan and one could not imagine living without the other.  Although, I'm not sure who, the "one" was, I've got a pretty good idea.

Maybe that's what got our Kristopher thinking, I'm not sure, because he's talking about adopting a Golden like our rascal.  We're ecstatic about his decision, which leads me to wonder, how many other soldiers might follow suit.  Here's a little story about Airman Kim Specht that might give us all an insight as to why these "best friends" can help in the soldiers healing process.      

"It was a quiet day at a U.S. Air Force base in Turkey not long before 9/11, much too quiet, as Senior Airman Kim Specht and her unit were immersed in their task of inspecting aircraft.  Sensing something was amiss, Specht searched the base, finding none of the usual bustle and noise.   Finally she met a patrolman, who told Specht that everybody was sealed safely away in shelters after word came of an incoming bomb attack — everybody except Specht and her unit, who were never told of the danger.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, Specht simply waited to die.  “In my mind, I wondered if we would go quickly or slowly, painfully or not painfully,” remembers Specht, now retired from service and staying with friends in Greenwich.  The bombs never came, but the psychological damage from being forgotten would explode in her nightmares for years after. 

“Being on high alert in a war zone 24 hours, not knowing if the gunfire I heard was friendly or not, was unsettling,” Specht said.  “I had to be aware that my interaction with the locals might not be safe. I had to think about the food or drink, whether it was poisoned or had crushed glass in it. Also, there was a danger of being poisoned and/or sexually assaulted.”  Those brushes with death and constantly being on edge, as well as very real experiences of being harassed, would eventually send her over the brink of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Specht, like hundreds of thousands of her fellow veterans, has waged a personal war with her psychological demons, dealing with bipolar disorder, plus all the symptoms that come with PTSD — anxiety, depression, nightmares and a sleep disorder.  “I had no value of life, no desire. I felt alone,” she said after her seven years in the Air Force, after which she settled in Texas.  But while most veterans attempt to cope with medication and counseling, Specht is one of a unique few for whom salvation would come on four legs".

Luis Carlos Montalván is a writer, veteran with 17 years in the military (a captain in the U.S. Army) and an advocate.  In Iraq he was wounded incurring a traumatic brain injury, (TBI) post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fractured vertebrae. Coming to the rescue for Montalván was “ECAD (East Coast Assistants Dogs)” ECAD (East Coast Assistants Dogs) with their Project HEAL...and a beauty of a dog named "Tuesday".  Meet them both........the results are transforming.


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Let's not sugar coat what's ahead.   These will be difficult times for the soldier and for his spouse, family and friends.  So many of us will want to help "fix" the situation with words and actions.  That's the worst medicine, I'm sure.  And I'm also convinced the loving look of a dog, the wagging tail, the loyalty they provide can be the best tonic there is.    And I'm willing to go to the Dogs to provide proof.


YGG,

John

2 comments:

  1. Check out paws-effect.blogspot.com which shares information about a local service dog organization placing dogs with combat veterans.

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  2. Thanks for the reminder. I do remember seeing something about this some time ago. I will definitely check it out!!!

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