Sometimes life simply conspires against you, and so I was late today to a Veterans Day Fundraiser at 37 PSR, a veteran-owned gun range serving Raleigh and Fayetteville (NC).
There were 16 two-man teams pairing a citizen (each of whom donated $250 to participate) and a veteran (who what their $250 entry fees sponsored by members of the community) in a five-stage competition that saw the paired teams engage targets with one of 16 different firearms in 10 calibers.
The shooting match, followed by an auction, side matches, and a raffle, were all part of the H3 Vet-Am, which was held to raise money for H3, a veteran-run non-profit providing service downs to combat veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) incurred during war.
A passion over 20 years in the making, H3 is the culmination of Veterans with the desire to serve other Veterans in need. Based on current statistics, 22 veterans and 1 active duty service member takes their life daily. That’s 2 to 3 times higher than in the general population. Our service men and women deserve better. H3 partnered with Combat Veteran owned Quality K9 Concepts and Raidon Tactics offering trained service/emotional support canines to Combat Era Veterans in need.
H3 rescues suitable companions from local shelters, kill shelters are evaluated first, and foster homes. This enables us to save the life of the dog and ultimately help the Veteran return to the life he/she once knew. Careful selection of both the dog and Veteran ensure a bond that is unmatched. H3 offers the trained canine at no cost to the Veteran.
All placed canines are trained to the highest standard. All dogs are registered as Certified Service dogs, complete with service vest, health check and all vaccinations. H3 ensures all canines have also been independently tested, and pass, the AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test before placement. H3 makes a commitment to the Veteran for lifetime training and support, also at no cost to the Veteran. Once a service canine is placed-the Veteran will be responsible for the daily care of their new companion, reinforcement of training, yearly vet exams and daily adventures as the person they once were. Won’t you help us continue to serve those that have served? They, and their families, have sacrificed more than we will ever comprehend-it’s the least we can do.
When I arrived I’d missed the morning’s shooting competition, but I got to listen to the combat veteran military working dog handlers explaining how they go to kill shelters (animal shelters that terminate those animals for whom they cannot find homes) and carefully screen dogs to find the right ones with the right temperament to become a service dog.
They then take the time to fully train and equip the dogs—there is zero cost to the recipient—and match the dog to a veteran in need.
One of those veterans, Christian, was there with his service dog Scout to share their story.
Christian served 29 years in the United States military, with his first combat mission being the invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) to depose dictator Manuel Noriega as a U.S. Army Ranger.
Decades of service took their toll on Christian, both mentally and physically. His breaking point happened while deployed. He took a handful of pills, and woke up in a military hospital.
He’s been battling his demons ever since. Panic attacks that last for hours were normal. Crippling anxiety made throw up every morning. Unable to cope and unable to function, he turned to alcohol and drugs to numb a mind that had experienced too much.
As if he didn’t have enough problems, Christian’s wife broke her leg at work, and then tripped while using her crutches, breaking her other leg. Adding to their already unbearable trauma, their youngest son was murdered in a grocery store, the victim of a 17-year-old robber who put the barrel of a gun to his forehead and pulled the trigger. Already shattered with a physically-debilitated spouse , it was Christian’s grim duty to identify his son’s remains, and cradle the half-empty head of his child.
Christian recited a list of tragedies that would break anyone, and Scout—loyal Scout—edged closer, sitting on Christian’s foot as he shared his tale, letting Christian know he was there, and offering comfort.
And that’s the point.
Scout and other dogs like him that can be trained by H3 are donated to veterans like Christian so that those who have given so much of their bodies and souls can have a companion to help them cope in a world that is no longer friendly.
A often-cited figure is that 22 veterans and one active-duty serviceperson commit suicide every day. Christian believes that number is probably much higher.
One of Christian’s friends, a team sergeant, lost his battle just last week.
Thanks to Scout and other service dogs out there, however, many more veterans are holding on.
I donated the contents of my wallet before leaving the fundraiser. It wasn’t nearly as much as I wish I had to give, but every little bit helps H3 rescue and save a dog and make the lives of one of our veterans a little easier.
Please follow this link you’d like to know more about H3, and some of the wonderful people who help make our veterans’ lives better.