Veterans Day is upon us, a time to honor and thank our military men and women and their families. Without their loyalty to country and their sacrifice, oftentimes to the point of major injury or death, Americans would live with a lot less freedom.
During the past nearly two years, I’ve met and written about several Wyoming veterans who served in Vietnam. I’m part of a project spearheaded by the Casper Star Tribune and Casper Journal, called “They Served with Honor,” in conjunction with the state of Wyoming Veterans Services; I am one writer of at least six around the state charged with interviewing veterans of the Vietnam War and writing their stories. It’s been a very amazing and humbling experience.
Many military service personnel suffer from PTSD, not recognized so much 50+ years ago, but certainly recognized now. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of American service men and women experience PTSD, including more than 30 percent of Vietnam veterans. It’s also estimated that about 50,000 U.S. veterans are homeless, more than 8 percent of the entire homeless population. Some studies show a 50% rate increase of suicide among veterans (deployed and nondeployed) than in the general population. We need to do better by our military and their families. We ask for their service, they give it, and now it’s our turn to serve them by caring for and about them.
One of the ways we can show we care, in fact a way for our service men and women to function in society and heal from their emotional and physical wounds is through dogs. Scientific studies show people with pets are less prone to depression, are more active physically, and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dogs, cats and other animals trained as therapy pets visit nursing homes and hospitals and help lessen anxiety among those with whom they spend time. Emotional support animals (ESA) are used with people who have an emotional disability, and can be prescribed by a licensed mental health provider, and service dogs help people with tasks they cannot do themselves. There are many organizations that pair veterans with animals that can provide the service and comfort many of our military need, and some even train former shelter, often saving these animals’ lives. Our wounded warriors can use such assistance. Learn more at these websites: http://www.petsforvets.com/ and https://petsforpatriots.org/.
On Veterans and always, let’s remember and honor those who serve and those who sacrificed on our behalf and the four-footed companions that help them.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.