Veterans and Their Dogs: The wonders of unconditional love.

 

How Dogs Can Help Veterans Overcome PTSD

New research finds that “man’s best friend” could be lifesavers for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Chris Colin

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

 

Robert Soliz, a 31-year-old former Army Specialist, participates in Paws for Purple Hearts, one of four experimental programs nationwide that pair veterans afflicted by PTSD with Labrador and golden retrievers. (Joseph Matthews, Veterans Affairs Photo)

“I would constantly be scanning for who was going to come stab me from behind,” says Robert Soliz, a 31-year-old former Army Specialist from San Joaquin, California. He was discharged in 2005 after serving in a heavy artillery quick-reaction force in South Baghdad. But fear, anxiety, depression and substance abuse swept into his life, and Soliz became one of 300,000 U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Isolated, his family deteriorating—“I couldn’t show affection, couldn’t hug my kids”—Soliz turned to the Palo Alto V.A. Medical Center. One recent morning, he talked about his progress. Hanging from his belt was a container of doggie treats, a link to the treatment he credits with saving his life. Soliz participates in Paws for Purple Hearts, one of four experimental programs nationwide that pair veterans afflicted by PTSD with Labrador and golden retrievers. Launched in 2008 by a social worker named Rick Yount, the program arranges for a veteran to spend six weeks with a dog, training it to be a mobility-assistance animal for a physically disabled veteran.

It’s no surprise that a doe-eyed creature like the one at Soliz’s feet can soothe, but other benefits are less predictable. The animals draw out even the most isolated personality, and having to praise the animals helps traumatized veterans overcome emotional numbness. Teaching the dogs service commands develops a patient’s ability to communicate, to be assertive but not aggressive, a distinction some struggle with. The dogs can also assuage the hypervigilance common in vets with PTSD. Some participants report they finally got some sleep knowing that a naturally alert soul was standing watch.

Researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects, such as elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms,” says Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection.

About 300 vets have participated in these programs, and some graduates who Yount worried “wouldn’t make it” report impressive strides. Congress has commissioned a study, underway in Florida, to assess the effectiveness of canine-caretaking on PTSD.

Soliz says his life is slowly coming back to him. He now can go to the movies without panicking—and hug and kiss his two kids.

 

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Resource Groups:

Paws of War

Link

Operation We Are Here

Link

Paws for Veterans

Link

 

 

Remembering and Honoring Our Veterans

 

 

Remembering and Honoring Our Veterans

By MG Paul Vallely, U.S. Army (ret.)

 

On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time.On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect.

In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”.

There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11:00 AM.

This day is often confused with Memorial Day because this day is celebrated differently in many other nations, here in the US it has a specific meaning for all veterans:

In the U.S., the function of Veterans Day is subtly different from that of other 11 November holidays. Unlike the situation in other countries, where that calendar date is set aside specifically for honoring those who died in action, Veterans Day honors all American veterans, whether living, dead in action, or deceased from other causes.

The official national remembrance of war dead is instead Memorial Day, originally called ‘Decoration Day’, from the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers, which originated in the years immediately following the American Civil War.

We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice and all who wore the uniform in defense of America.

Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent,

Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent,

…for the grueling times sweating in the desert

…for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones,

…for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers,

…for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle,

…for the wounds suffered fighting evil,

…for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries,

…for the precious occasions missed at home with family and friends.

For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty. A special thank you to all families and friends, to the parents who raised them, stood by them and made them honorable men and woman. We thank the wives, husbands, and loved ones who stood by them and supported them with their love.

May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America.

May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice.

You who have served and are serving as our brave ones, our heroes, are our national treasures. You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation. Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world.

Those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.

Our son speaks from his resting place below our feet in Bigfork.

He speaks to me each day from his hallowed space with beautiful skies and mountains majestic white with snow.

God bless his soul and the others buried here and I thank him for his wonderful contribution to our life.

He lives forever in our hearts. I fear no evil when I walk with Warriors.

We walk in the valley of death but we fear no evil.

We are the Masters of our Destiny and the Captain of our souls. You are the wind beneath my wings. I fly with you forever in eternity.

WE salute you one and all. WE bow before you in respect and humility.

On Monday, our Nation officially comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. Through their steadfast defense of America’s ideals, our service members have ensured our country still stands strong, our founding principles still shine, and nations around the world know the blessings of freedom.

As we offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm’s way, and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America.

Our men and women in uniform are bearers of a proud military tradition that has been dutifully passed forward—from generation to generation—for more than two centuries.

In times of war and peace alike, our veterans have served with courage and distinction in the face of tremendous adversity, demonstrating an unfaltering commitment to America and our people.

Many have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the country they loved. The selflessness of our service members is unmatched, and they remind us that there are few things more fundamentally American than doing our utmost to make a difference in the lives of others.

Just as our veterans stood watch on freedom’s frontier, so have they safeguarded the pros­perity of our Nation in our neighborhoods, our businesses, and our homes.

It is our moral obligation to ensure they receive our support for as long as they live as proud veterans of the United States Armed Forces. On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families.

To honor their contributions to our Nation, let us strive with renewed determination to keep the promises we have made to all who have answered our country’s call. As we fulfill our obligations to them, we keep faith with the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve our Union, and with the ideals of service and sacrifice upon which our Republic was founded.

Redding, California boy becomes pied piper of patriotism.

From CBS News:

California boy becomes pied piper of patriotism

 

After visiting his grandpa’s grave in Redding, California, and realizing that not every veteran in the cemetery had a flag, 11-year-old Preston Sharp decided to change that. He took on odd jobs and solicited donations to buy flags and flowers for every veteran in his grandpa’s cemetery and beyond.

Memorial Day: A Time To Remember Our Heroes by Paul E. Vallely MG, US Army (ret)

Memorial Day

 A Time To Remember Our Heroes

 By

 Paul E. Vallely

MG, US Army (ret)

 

We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones, for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions  missed at home with family and friends.

For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty.  A special thank you to all families and friends, to the parents who raised them, stood by them and made them honorable men and woman.  We thank the wives, husbands, and loved ones who stood by them and supported them with their love.

May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice.

You who have served and are serving as our brave ones, our heroes, are our national treasures. You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation. Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world. Those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.

Our son speaks from his resting place below our feet. He speaks to me each day from his hallowed space with beautiful skies and mountains majestic white with snow. God bless his soul and  the others buried here and I thank him for his wonderful contribution to our life. He lives forever in our hearts. I fear no evil when I walk with Warriors. We walk in the valley of death but we fear no evil. We are the Masters of our Destiny and the Captain of our souls. You are the wind beneath my wings. I fly with you forever in eternity.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flags and flowers to show the respect of a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. This tradition continues today, and our nation now sets aside the last Monday in May to celebrate the courage of the men and women who have worn America’s colors in war and in peace.

I remember as a young man remembering Memorial that in the morning there was a parade down Main Street, led by a color guard, the high school band, and ranks of veterans from World War I, World War II, and the war of the moment, Korea. The Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red poppies to raise funds for the disabled. Politicians made speeches and citizens prayed in public. It was a solemn annual event that taught us reverence for those who served and sacrificed for our country. It’s no longer so in many places in America, especially in our large urban areas.

Begun as a local observance in the aftermath of the Civil War, the first national commemoration took place on May 30, 1868, at the direction of General John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Though his “General Order No. 11” specified “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion” – meaning only Union soldiers – those who tended the burial sites at Arlington, VA, Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, MS, decided on their own to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate war dead.

For five decades the holiday remained essentially unchanged. But in 1919, as the bodies of young Americans were being returned to the U.S. from the battlefields of World War I, May 30th became a truly national event. It persisted as such until 1971, during Vietnam – the war America wanted to forget – when the Uniform Holiday Act passed by Congress went into effect, and turned Memorial Day into a “three-day weekend.” Since then, it’s become an occasion for appliance, mattress and auto sales, picnics, barbecues and auto races. Thankfully, there are some places besides Arlington National Cemetery like Bigfork, Montana where Memorial Day is still observed as a time to honor America’s war dead.

This Memorial Day we remember those who have served our nation in the past and those who currently serve America today. Although Memorial Day comes only once a year, we must make sure that our service members know how grateful we are every day. It recognizes the sacrifices made by our courageous men and women who have fallen in defense of our nation’s liberty. This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember and honor America’s fallen and current day warriors who are advancing freedom’s cause today. WE salute you one and all.  WE bow before you in respect and humility. May God bless you and God bless America, land of the free and home of the brave.

 

The entire staff at The Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund gives thanks to our fallen heroes and their families for their service to the United States of America and preserving and protecting our Constitution and our American way of life. On behalf of a grateful nation, The United States of America, may God bless you. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Always.


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Latest Soldiers Memorial Fund Award March 29, 2017

Univ. of MT award to Cadet Jessica Bates Army ROTC

          Cadet Jessica Bates Receiving The Soldiers Memorial Fund Scholarship Award

Univ. of MT Awards ceremony March 2017

               The University of Montana ROTC Awards Ceremony  March 29, 2017

 

More about Cadette Jessica Bates:

Jessica Photo


By Tegan Bauer

This past February one outstanding Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) member was selected to represent Carroll College at the George C. Marshall Leadership Seminar. Jessica Bates, a senior Business Administration major, traveled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to partake in this unique opportunity.

“To know I will work for an organization who values the significance of building great qualities as a leader with character so much so that they implement programs like ROTC and offer other opportunities such as this leadership seminar, is absolutely priceless.  These experiences will travel with me throughout my entire life, whether that be in my military or civilian career,” said Bates.

Bates was nominated from a pool of University of Montana and Carroll College’s ROTC Cadre. Applicants are evaluated on the basis of academic merit, physical fitness and leadership ability. Being selected to attend the Leadership Seminar is an honor.

The theme for the three day conference was ‘inspirational leadership’. Each day the representatives from all over the country listened to renowned speakers, learned about leadership techniques, and participated in team building activities. Bates stated that her favorite speaker was General Robert Abrams, commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command. She also recounted how much she loved bonding with her fellow ROTC members from all over the country.

“Having an opportunity to meet and better know some of my best peers across the nation; to establish relationships with those whom I’ll eventually get to serve with, since the Army is such a small world!” said Bates.

Bates enthusiastically emphasized how grateful she was for this opportunity and how much she learned from the experience.

“What I took away most from this experience is just how important it is to take care of the people underneath, beside and above you.  The significance of making the work environment a healthy and productive one and being the kind of leader that your soldiers fully trust and want to emulate. It all comes down to humility,” said Bates.

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