Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Floating on Air

We start out today with a picture from one of the weekend puppy raisers who had spent time with Mike. I thank them for helping to mold Mike into the amazing wonderful service dog he is today. Getting the pictures this week put tears of joy into my eyes so I figured I would share this one with you all.

For those that have been following these entries for a while this may sound a tad redundant but I have been a little busy over the past couple weeks. Let's see we had the State Department Convention for the American Legion where we accomplished a full slate of activities and elected our next years Department Command. Congratulations to Paul and all the other new officers and many prayers to a great year to come. Next up on the Legion for Post 111 is our Annual Concert on the Green which is happening 13 August, 2015 on the Green in Woodstock. The planning for this is in full swing and should be a great time for all.  Please come out and enjoy some music food and fun and help support Northeastern CT's Quiet Corner. Our Post is also of course doing the annual Woodstock Fair again this year and is looking for volunteers to man the food booth which is one of our largest fund raisers of the year. If you would like to help out in anyway we sure would love the support.

On the 9th of August, Post 91 in Moosup CT is having their annual VJ Day Parade and Mike and I will be there on the bandstand documenting it for the States Historical Records and we are looking forward to this year especially because the parade will have a number of honorees from WWII in the Parade from around the State. Please take your time and come out and help honor these Veterans who helped shape this nation in one of the only VJ parades left in this country.

Mike & I have also traveled to the Balloon Festival in RI where we had a blast with a great group of other people from the North East Truck Camper Jamboree.  That was a party inside the big event that made the not so good weather for balloons much more fun.

As always Mike is fitting into his role as the "Kent monitor & magnet to get people talking". During the Balloon Festival I was able to give out an awful lot of information and talk about how America's VetDogs is helping change veterans lives. We got to meet celebrities that were performing at the festival and just had a great time hanging out with fellow truck camping enthusiast. For those that have never tried this style camping it may be hard to understand why those of us that do it believe so strongly in it as the best way to travel and gather as a group. There is something about being so compact yet having all the features of the large RV's.

This past weekend I had the enjoyment of pulling the camera out and pushing myself to shoot an entire day of sports. Dan my son went to compete in the New Hampshire State Strongman/Strongwomen championship and I was asked if I could help document the event. It was a special honor for me since my son had just turned 24 and as he grows older I get less time with him. We got to spent 2 days together enjoying each others company which for me was such a gift. Having Mike with me to do this was such a pleasure also because his temperament was perfect for this event. This was the first time I actually was focused (I know bad pun) on picture taking and not Mike yet he stayed true to me and did not pull or attempt to guide me off course at all. Many questions were asked and as always Mike was a perfect example to the general public of what a service dog should be.

My blessing abound for sure. Up until yesterday I thought my month of August was actually going to be a tad slower then my normal pace but alas that has changed yet again. I will be heading off to the National Convention in Baltimore for the American Legion National at the end of the month. I have done this convention a few times and it is always a great time hanging out with fellow legionnaires. Tomorrow I continue the local tour with Mike when I go to Speak at the Pomfret Senior Center which asked if I would be willing to come up and share a while back. We look forward to these small gatherings as much as the large ones because I get to see how Mike touches hearts and touching hearts is what it is all about.

I can not thank everyone enough for allowing me to share and help others it is what keeps me going forward. Thank you all. Hope to see you all on the road soon.  God Bless!

 “Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. ” 
― Maya Angelou

Now for the shameless plug to insure other Veterans have the same opportunities I have had Here is the info on the fundraising page for VetDogs Attention: I have a Personal Fundraising Page for VetDogs Now! Please follow this link and make a donation to help another veteran like me get a service dog.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brian Pearce & Dual service dogs serving our nations veterans!

As I mentioned in my last blog entry I was going to speak with Brian and see if he would let me showcase his story. I wanted to do this to let people see a different perspective on what these dogs do and why America's VetDogs does what they do. Over time I hope to showcase a few other stories here also but Brian and I over the past yr and a half have become very good friends, some would say brothers from different mothers. His exploits and efforts before and after his injuries spotlight the kind nature and caring that makes others better just being around him. He is the person that doesn't focus on his issues but is out looking to help others get past theirs. What I call a true leader and a hero.

Brian's first dog Othello, has been diagnosed with a liver disease and has been forced into a medical retirement leaving Brian at the moment with no guide/service dog. Unlike most people who would slow down and wait till he get another dog to help him along in life Brian is still moving along at full steam ahead. He has been seen at speaking events talking about America's VetDogs and how they are in the process of training a new dog and how they handled the entire retirement process. Which by the way is an amazing story in itself. He has been out helping other veterans through the service organizations he belongs to and calls me almost daily just to check in. There is no slowing him down.

With no further ado here is Brian's story;

Prior to joining the U.S. Army, I worked as a Deputy Sheriff in Ohio for over 8 years before joining the U.S. Army in 1992 and serving until March of 2000. After leaving the Army after completing my first tour of duty, I was hired as a Police inspector for Osmose count, Ohio, followed by time as a patrolman for the Pomery Police Department and then Chief of Police, Syracuse Police Department.

In January 2004 I returned to Active Duty in the United States Army.
In 2005 I was stationed at Fort Wainwright Alaska with 172nd Striker Combat Brigade when we deployed into Iraq from August 2005 to August 2006 where my and I were sent into the Sunni Triangle.

On October 20, 2006 a road side Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded and I suffered a severe penetrating head injury. Once the blast zone was secured I was air evacuated to the field hospital in Ballad, Iraq. There I underwent an emergency craniotomy of the right occipital and posterior fossa with duraplasty retaining foreign body, and a ventriculostomy. The IED blast caused shrapnel to penetrate the right occipital lobe of the skull and although my eyes were not damaged, the brain injury itself damaged the visual pathways inside the brain cortex. This blast also caused severe TBI and cortical blindness. Later we learned it was the cause of complex visual impairments, PTSD, hearing loss, pulmonary embolism, seizure and REM sleep disorders.

I was moved to the Richmond VA Poly Trauma Medical Center in early 2007 where I spent over six years. Today I still reside in Richmond and continue TBI and Vision rehabilitation as an outpatient at the Polytrauma Center. During my rehabilitation I was fortunate enough to be supported by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) who assisted me in being treated at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Blind Center in West Haven, Connecticut for eight weeks in October 2007. There I received training for blindness with the VA providing me with adaptive technology computer devices and training. The VA Eastern Blind Rehabilitative Center was excellent helping me go through extensive and thorough training in living skills, manual skills, orientation and mobility training, and computer training. we decided to live in this area and not move back home to Ohio. I am still married to wonderful wife Angie, and have two teenage children. 

The VA has deemed me unemployable now since my injury and it has been a long road back to this point with many twists and turns.
I now spend the bulk of my time advocating for wounded war Veterans and volunteering for charitable Guide Dog Foundation and VA TBI organizations and Families of the Wounded. This includes my service as a Board Member Virginia Brain Injury Association. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A little time in nature!

So last entry I updated everyone on some recent trips around CT and New England. Of course being the slow and retired person I am I had to take a rest from all of that activity so I finally talked the wife into a trip up into the New Hampshire State Parks for a few nights of Loon therapy.

Before we could do that though we had to get through our great nations birthday. My American Legion Post 111 out of Woodstock, CT takes part in the East Woodstock 4th of July Jamboree. The Post is the Color Guard for the annual event leading the parade off so Mike and I had an opportunity to march with the other members of Post 111. It was a great time had by all with lots of food and music some would say a perfect old time classic Americana town party. I look forward to many more and hope that the citizens enjoyed seeing and hearing about Mike in my talking to people while mingling during the day.

Sunday Morning My wife Mike and myself got up and moving to a beautiful day, where we finished the final loading and jumped in the truck camper to head North to Pillsbury State Park. This is one of the best kept little gems in the New Hampshire State park system. The day after the 4th of July on a holiday weekend you would expect to find the park packed just like almost every other campground in New England yet when we pulled in we found that in our loop there were 3 other campsites taken. Because it is a rustic gem, the park rangers shed does not even sport electricity only a rotary dial telephone. Our site was bustled up against the "pond" more like a lake in CT standards but who knows how the naming of these things are done.

We did not see our first person for the first couple hours and had a great opportunity to relax and unwind after allowing Google Maps take us on a different route then I would normally have taken. To say it was a much bumpier ride would be putting it mildly. I think Google was looking for every possible road construction and side road they could run us down. Needless to say I used my internal map to get home and it was a much smoother ride and quicker to boot. So much for getting detoured ;) back to the campground festivities. When our nearest campers did show up they were very friendly folk who we found out had been staying there since fathers day. The gentleman was a Vietnam Vet who had his other half with him and they both had so many questions about Mike.

Questions about Mike never cease to amaze me and I have learned so much more now that I have been back through the VetDogs class a second time. Yes I guess I truly am a slow learner. I am so grateful that I have the video's that I shared a few weeks ago in the blog because it makes it so much easier to explain in order exactly what Mike is capable of. Once someone see's the video's then the conversations really get going and invariably someone knows someone or as in this case the Veteran I was talking to himself may end up putting in an application for a dog. His other half also had a father who was a Veteran that is legally blind and has mobility issues and may be a candidate for a dual purpose dog.

Having been involved with other Veterans such as Brian Pearce, who I have seen (yes I am sure there is a pun in there somewhere) use the dual purpose dog to give him his life back by both help him in the guiding areas and service areas. Watching him grow and now get ready to move on to his second dog due to his first one having an illness has proven that the sight and insight the dogs are able to pass on to us the users is amazing. If you all have never read Brian's Story I will ask if I can share it here in a special edition. It is an amazing story and gave me the ability to speak with confidence to this young lady at the campground about her father. To watch her eyes light up with the potential of hope finally after watching her father slide into depression over the loss of his site and mobility was wonderful and it was Brian's story that I was able to share that made that happen.

There are so many other great hero's that I have been blessed to meet in my travels while speaking about how these dogs change lives I hope that I have a chance to share more with all of you. Over the next few weeks Mike and I will be a tad busy. We have the CT State American Legion Convention going on This weekend and next week another trip to New Hampshire early in the week. Later in the week I have something I have been looking forward to for a few months now as a Photographer, the South County Balloon Festival. How many people are willing to wager on me talking to a couple people about service dogs and veteran issues?

Alright time to sign off for now hope everyone has a great week and always remember follow your dream.

 “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 
― Howard Thurman

Now for the shameless plug to insure other Veterans have the same opportunities I have had Here is the info on the fundraising page for VetDogs Attention: I have a Personal Fundraising Page for VetDogs Now! Please follow this link and make a donation to help another veteran like me get a service dog.