I love Marines. I was never in the armed services, but I love the Marines. I find them easy work to with when they come to my office and want their children. They take orders so well it makes my job as a father‚Äôs right attorney almost easy.
But there are many other reasons why I love a Marine: that indomitable sense of loyalty, that ability to focus on a mission and get a job done. Plus the uniforms, they are really the most dashing of all the branches.
Truly though it‚Äôs the loyalty that chokes me up and makes me wish I had been a Marine. I am reminded of it this week as we approach Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness day, which is this Friday, June 27.
PTSD is what any normal human can suffer if they go through an event, or series of events, that is extremely stressful. Veterans of foreign wars tend to have it in varying degrees and though some vets return home and readjust to civilian life seamlessly, others struggle to leave the horrors behind. They continue to relive the nightmares, they never get out of the darkness of war. At least not without help.
That‚Äôs where The Battle Buddy Foundation comes in, and this story begins.
Kenny Bass was a vet who was struggling to get back from his service in Iraq. He went through the VA and their standard rigmarole of bureaucracy and prescription drugs – but it wasn‚Äôt helping. After years lost to drugs, alcohol and thinking about suicide – an option that more than 22 veterans take each day – the VA prescribed something totally different, a dog.
We see them every day. Services dogs that help the blind navigate the world. These days, dogs are trained to be of service to paraplegics, epileptics, and diabetics. So to think that a dog could help someone with PTSD is not a stretch. For those of us with a dog, we‚Äôll tell you they‚Äôre the best therapy possible some days.
Often times you‚Äôll see a homeless person with a dog, and wonder, why? The answer is simple really. They want to be loved; they want someone or something to care for them, and to care for. It‚Äôs a primal need.
I have known many a person who says their dog got them through a bad depression and they were thinking of killing themselves but couldn‚Äôt stand the thought of what would happen to the dog.
The VA prescribed Kenny Bass a dog to treat his PTSD but they didn‚Äôt have any way to fulfill the prescription. Typical government right?¬† We know what you need, but can‚Äôt help you get it.
Kenny got lucky though and found a guy who trained dogs to be service dogs for PTSD. The problem was the dog costs thousands of dollars, and Kenny didn‚Äôt have the money. The trainer trusted this Marine though and gave him the dog on a payment plan. That changed Kenny‚Äôs life. It was not just that Atlas, Kenny‚Äôs service dog, gave him a new lease on life, but the entire experience gave Kenny a new purpose in life. To provide vets who are suffering from PTSD with a service animal.
That purpose became The Battle Buddy Foundation that was co-founded with Joshua Rivers, who served with Kenny in Iraq and tried to help him here in Los Angeles. I met Joshua over at the Wilshire and 7th offices of GIIVE, through Bruce Gehrke. GIIVE is helping TBBF raise the awareness of the need for veterans with PTSD to be treated, and to provide service dogs custom trained for each vet‚Äôs needs.
PTSD is not preventable, but it is treatable. We owe it to our veterans to help them find their way home from the darkness. TBBF has 4,000 vets who need dogs, and 1,000 people who want to be trainers. What they don‚Äôt have it money to make it happen. As a new 501c(3) they are getting their sea legs under them and have placed eight dogs so far. With at least 22 veterans a day committing suicide, there is a critical need for anything that will help.
The first large scale training facility is currently being built in Texas where TBBF will house and train both service dogs and their veterans. TBBF needs your help in completing the mission that Kenny started with Atlas – to provide our veterans who need them, service dogs to get them back from the nightmare of war.
Bumper sticker patriotism is easy. I saw a lot of yellow ribbon stickers a few years back. But that‚Äôs worthless. No sticker helped a veteran suffering from PTSD, and it never will. The cold wet nose of dog, in the middle of the night however can bring calm, and meaning, to what was once a meaningless existence.
The Marines who founded TBBF are a special breed. They rush in where angels fear to tread. They saw the need, and the solution. They founded the organization to help those the VA can‚Äôt. Like typical Marines they banded together to get the job done.
It‚Äôs time we helped them to help all the others.
This Friday, make a donation to The Battle Buddy Foundation in honor of PTSD Awareness day. Whether it‚Äôs $5 or $5,000 it‚Äôs going to a good cause. Their website is www.tbbf.org.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father‚Äôs and Men‚Äôs Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.¬† He welcomes your questions and comments.¬† He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.