Saturday, December 10, 2016

High Flying Times!

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” 
― Maya Angelou

This past week Mike & I found us flying to the West Coast to film two different videos with a production company. These both will be aired sometime shortly within markets across the country. Unfortunately, I do not know the specifics of when or where at this point but will keep everyone updated as information is released. The first video will feature the bond between animals and humans while the second is going to focus on the human/service dog connection. Stay tuned; I saw some of the raw footage shot and it was incredible.

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” ― José N. Harris

During the interview portion of the day, I was asked many questions to help the production crew understand the why's of what I do with my volunteering. A little information about the crew themselves may be to help understand the process. They were a young group that had experienced more than your average worldly experiences. All of them were raised Morman and still profess a strong faith and understanding. While none had served in the military, they had all traveled to many places around the world, most recently returning a couple of weeks ago from Uganda.

With the understanding that we were all present to highlight how this amazing dog, Mike & of course Iris, have impacted my life, we were able to draw the connections to how they touch so much more. Topics that we discussed in the interview brought out many emotions. How the editing happens and all the B-roll of Mike & I doing what we do gets put together will be fascinating to see. Being the first time a professional team has taken on a project including us has us waiting with baited breath. I hope some of the beach scenes where Mike & I got to play out in the sand get to make the final cut. You will all love the time that I nose dived into the sand and Mike went right to the alarm because I was on the ground. (I doubt that will make it)

OK, enough about the time in CA, let discuss the flight. Over the years many of you have seen that I attempt to advocate for people when put in adverse situations. American Airlines, more than any other airline, has had complaints against them from people with service dogs that I have seen. Now I will stand up for both sides quite often because rarely is something as it is portrayed in print or on the internet. Well, the production company made my flight arrangements on American Airlines, so I was prepared for possible issues. The good news is that we were treated correctly. AA had been given the wrong info when making the reservations, but this was very quickly rectified when checking-in for the first time. When we stepped onto the airplane, we had an opportunity to explain the ADA to one of the flight crew that wanted to know a few things.

One of the most important things learned here by me is that knowledge is always the key to making things run smoothly. Many understand the ADA today, but they fail to realize there are rules governing aviation that augment the ADA. Here is a part of the write up "Air carriers must provide disabled passengers with boarding assistance if needed. They are also required to make sure that terminals are accessible to all passengers including those with wheelchairs. In addition, disabled passengers have the right to fly with their service animals free of charge. Generally, carriers must allow the service animal to sit with the passenger. In such cases, persons with disabilities generally don't have to provide documentation about their service animal prior to their flight, except in situations involving an eight hour or longer flight or an emotional support or psychiatric service animal." 

So what does all that mean and why am I taking the time to mention it here? Well often Veterans receive service dogs for PTSD and a myriad of other things but when asked they always seem to mention PTSD and forget the other things. TSA and Airlines are schooled on the keywords of emotional support or psychiatric service animals when you mention them you fall into that category. If you have a service dog that does a multiple task such as balance, seizure, hearing or any other issues along with PTSD, why would you want to bring undue stressors into the mix by only mentioning PTSD to the airline? My goal is to educate here. Understanding the system and how they operate makes it much easier to navigate.

So ending this blog for this week all I ask is that we all take the time to research and go in fully aware that while the laws of this land protect us we also have to help those who have been asked to enforce and interpret those laws. Most of all kindness and understanding when dealing with everyone makes life much easier for all involved. I have to remember I am the only person I can change and I can make a difference in how others deal with me!

Here is a link on Facebook to see a "Live Video"

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's December already?

 As the last month of 2016 arrives today it seems a great day to reflect on the past year with all the changes and also a perfect opportunity to look forward. As American's we have been afforded so many opportunities that most people appear to take for granted today. My travels result in putting me in front of many different people often seeing sides of this great nation that I have not experienced prior. I would like to say that what I see gives me hope, but that would not be the whole truth.

There are so many new experiences that I continue to have on a daily basis, trying to write about them all is one of the hardest things to keep track of in my log. Not a day goes by while inventorying my actions and interactions with people to see how I could have been a better person, and I am amazed by how other people show me God's grace in dealing with me. I find that one of my biggest problems is that I fail to hold a light to same God that carries me so often when I do not have the strength, courage, and understanding to get through the daily situations called life. Through reflection, I have been awarded a small understanding of the grace others carry and share so freely, but it is this quiet time where I also see my stepping in the way of often of allowing others to be the windows and mirrors that God has placed here on earth for me.

The mission of supporting Veterans and others which I happen to be driven towards over the past years continues to kick into high gear with new opportunities. This week alone a call came in from a company in CA that wants to do a couple of videos focusing on the bond between the service dog and myself. I will have an opportunity to share the dark times that I went through before getting Iris in my life and how life without a service dog would be unimaginable. This medium is professionally produced, marketed and will be used to help so many people I am overjoyed to be a part of it.

Mike & I will be flying out to CA for this particular trip which will be fun. Mike has not done a whole lot of flying so it should be interesting given his large size and the small size of today's commercial airliners. For sure he and I will make it work since I have seen him crawl into spaces I would never have expected an animal of his size to fit into let alone be comfortable.

On another note, I have to give a shout out to Jan Roberta & the Stitch Chicks Quilts of Valor Group of Eastern CT for honoring Mike and I while we were visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The pictures in this blog are of the amazing quilts they stitched up and then presented to us at the Norwich, CT VFW. It was a great afternoon for all of us because Mike and I were able to explain about Service Dogs to some Veterans and the "Stitch Chicks" allowing me to carry on my mission while attempting to be humble and accept their beautiful gift to me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Busy Time's!!!

As we all move forward during these "Busy Times" I can't help but think to myself how amazing my life has been so far. When I was younger I moved with a purpose, or so I thought, from one fire to another putting out emergencies as they happened. Never realizing how my input was actually just part of the picture. To me it was the world, I knew I was part of a bigger world don't get me wrong, I just didn't recognize it as I was experiencing life.

We all are so self-important! We look at things through our rose glasses or our own little crystal balls based on how we see or feel about particular things that directly affect us. Some of us even believe that we can even tell you what is going to happen in the future, just watch the TV for an hour or two and wow you will realize that the world is going to be a terrible place because ... or it will now be a much better place because... all based off our own needs and wants. It's almost comical to think back to simpler times when we had to wait to find out results and formulate our opinions.

Trump won the Presidential race here in the good ole US of A., and now in the past 24 hours I have seen many parents who "all on their own have had to develop a way to explain to their child or children how love lost and Hate won." I am not a huge fan of either candidate but really? Talk about drinking the cool aide, people we need to come to grips with the fact that we live in a republic where every four years we vote to have a new president or re-elect the one we have if that is an option. To say things such as the quote I said is the hate being pushed forward not trying to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony that is for sure.

We the people, the citizens of America, are the ones that will create the harmony and peace. Now for the real reason for this particular blog. Since the last entry I have been touched in ways, I never dreamed of by the people of this country. One at a time I have had interactions with individuals in grocery stores, on the street, and in the hospitals. To say that my heart has been opened to new thinking and new hope is downplaying the ways God has revealed himself to me. There has not been a day that has gone by that I have not been approached by someone wanting to know more about Mike. Now I know that happens all the time, but this has been different to the core. These people don't just ask questions they want to open up to me and share life stories. I have had people stop and want to pray with me about the path that we are on and they are on. No, I am not a Preacher, and it does make me uncomfortable often to be put in that place where I am being used to open hearts.

I've always said the mission God has given me is to carry the message to other veterans, and misfits like me that there is hope. What I did not realize is that we are all misfits in one way or another. I was in the VA undergoing some test and a doctor that had recently moved to the same area I am hanging in currently was opening up to me, so we talked for much longer than the average time allotted by the system. After all was done and said, the doctor looked at me and said I feel the need to ask if you will pray with me, now realize this is a government facility where things like that can get people fired. We prayed and shed a few tears a left better people. What I am trying to point out here is these are all one on one interactions with another human being. Nothing to do with race religion color or politics just eyes to eye heart to heart. We as a people have forgotten or have pushed aside the reason we all formed communities in the first place. That interaction between individuals grows exponentially like wildfire just like that hate and prejudice that we all seem to be talking about but doing nothing to rebuke.

We don't fix systemic issues like racism hate and other problems like them by yelling and screaming all of our focus on the negative. We have to concentrate on the love and joy each, and every one of us has to offer to each other. We have to become a nation of communities by becoming a nation of we's. What we focus on grows what we don't goes away it is simple logistics. So for all of you wondering how to talk to your kids or yourself in the mirror, try telling yourself to love yourself and see how many more people want to hang out with the loving you! I know that I prefer to be around people that want to profess positive over negative any day!

Let's make this nation great again! It's built on some incredible values we just need to dust them off and put them into action. Action, Positive Action is the key to Positive Living.

SoapBox Off.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I'm Back

A New Beginning 

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” 
― Leo Tolstoy

For all those that have followed my blog in the past, I am sorry for the elongated period of time away. To say that I have had some personal issues would be the understatement of the century. I am however finally finding my voice again and hopefully, will start to update this blog on a more regular schedule.

I am not going to go into what happened nor will I attempt to make excuses for my actions.
What I will do is say that I have learned an awful lot about who I am and where I am going and am very excited about my future. My camera has been neglected over the past few years and I am finding it finally with a new backdrop of America as it's subject. For now, I have been traveling with my eyes open in hopes to spur on the artistic flow. Feel free to check out the new design at my prices are extremely fair and my hopes for the pictures posted are to please people's senses and maybe help keep my gas tank full at the same time.

“If people refuse to look at you in a new light and they can only see you for what you were, only see you for the mistakes you've made, if they don't realize that you are not your mistakes, then they have to go.” 
― Steve Maraboli

Mike has been an amazing travel partner over the past 7 months and I would be at a loss without him. I thank God for the mission of reaching out to Veterans of all Era's and helping where I can. I can hopefully lower fears of those that have worried about my whereabouts by saying that I have been safe and sound with many new friends as I start this new part of my life. I have been blessed to see all of the Blue Ridge Parkway and other areas along the South East of America. My travels will stretch soon enough but for now, as I settle up my past and handle some new medical issues I will focus on staying warm during this coming winter.

There is so much to look forward to at this point of my life. I can not think of a period of time where my gratitude has ever been stronger for all the experiences and family I have. So often in life, we as people tend to drive on at 65 miles an hour looking forward without slowing down. Focusing on the road in front of us without taking the time to see the images and people that God has placed on the sides of the road for us to stop and speak to. I have learned over the past 6-7 months that I need to pull over and share with all of those people that used to just be flashes in the mirror. I may not be around to come back and experience today again tomorrow so I am not willing to miss it. The gifts I have been given are so much clearer today than ever before. Hopefully, my "Journey" will inspire others to slow down and breathe while they enjoy each other to the fullest.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 
― Lao Tzu

Those that know me will be happy to know that not a day goes by where I am not able to share with someone about Service Dogs and the way they change lives. I am also able to reach out into the Veterans communities recently in ways I have never been able to before which has been eye-opening for me. My river has been laid out for me and I am moving forward with many many future experiences to look forward to. Thank you all for staying in contact with me and I look forward to sharing and hearing from everyone. God Bless.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

“Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.”

Update: Brian went through his surgery and came out doing very well! His recovery is going well and hard to believe but he has opted to slow down a bit and actually listen to the doctors while he waits to make sure everything is in working order. He is still having an issue that Walter Reed is actually looking at so please continue to keep him and his family in your prayers as they look to get answers but thank God that everything came out so well overall. (Don't you love the picture of Mike playing doctor trying to make Brian feel better)

Life throws so many curveballs sometimes it is a full time job just keeping up to the changes brought on because of those. For those that follow the travels of Mike & I our trip to Montana has been postponed for a while due to circumstances beyond our control. I have to admit I am bummed out I was really looking forward to meeting all those friend I haven't had the chance to meet yet. Don't fret though I doubt I will be kept in my stable long especially since I don't have a stable ;)  You may notice that many of the pictures in the blog this time are not mine. I am using some of the pictures that were featured in the Blog about the MCI Framingham Prison Program. I know that I have mentioned this program often because it is where Mike was raised. The fact that Mike & I were invited back to the facility to tour and take part in the interview process was such an honor. We also got to spent a very emotional visit with the women that actually raised Mike. What an honor. Please go read and Support the mission because they support both America's VetDogs and The GuideDog Foundation which without VetDogs would not be.

Over the past few weeks Mike and I have been back down south to see Brian and help out while he had brain surgery. I've also been doing the switch from the Providence primary care to the West Roxbury VA which has required a good amount of travel and thanks to my trusty truck camper overnights in the parking lot to save on gas and miles. Everything has been a great experience and I can vouch for the great service rating that the West Roxbury VA has. My new primary care doctor is great and very on top of things which is a nice change from my last PC in Providence.

Enough about me lets talk about the stuff that is important. Helping others! Because Mike and I have been spending so much time up at West Roxbury and we are not as well know there as we have been in other places we have had the opportunity to talk to many new veterans and caretakers about service dogs. Mike is such a great catalyst to starting those conversations. Hopefully over time there will be a number of new service dogs walking the halls along with us.

Even with the Montana trip being postponed Mike & I have been very busy and will be very busy. Of course we have Legion and VFW stuff we're doing along with a good amount of VetDogs events also. Coming up this week we have a Lions & Leo's Night of Giving were we will represent for VetDogs and then deliver their generous donation to VetDogs at the annual 5/10k run in Annapolis, MD. Right before the trip to Annapolis our own church family at Trinity Episcopal Church here in Brooklyn CT is holding a Family dinner fundraiser for America's VetDogs. I point this out because some people seem to think that a fund raiser has to be huge or done by a large group well I can tell you all that Brooklyn CT itself is a tiny town and the church is a small community but they feel the need to step up and support this wonderful mission. I can tell you all that the only thing it takes to run a fundraiser is a willingness to put yourself out there and make it happen. The amount of money raised is secondary to the feeling and knowledge that bringing a community together to help save our nations veterans brings. Mike & I travel for any and all organizations that want to get involved in any way. It's about giving back every penny helps the foundation without a doubt but the word spread through the community is where the real win happens.

After the Annapolis run is done Mike & I will head to Philadelphia to meet with the folks at Boeing to speak to them about America's VetDogs and the CFC campaign. What an honor to be allowed to go in and visit a facility like that and show them how their dollars are spent to help other veterans recover from all sorts of medical issues. Once we are done there we will pack the camper up and head over to the American headquarters for PetValue another proud sponsor of VetDogs who happens to have Mike & I as their team for the year. Once we finish there we will rush bak toward CT where PetValue will be meeting us at their Colchester Store to present VetDogs with a generous check of a secret dollar amount from this years March giving campaign they ran. You all may recall my mentioning that in past announcements where they did the handsantizer sales. That will be an exciting day for sure.

Well I hope I haven't bored you all and I look forward to see you all on the road or in our travels somewhere. God Bless.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

“Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose!”

As always I have been less than stellar in keeping up with posting blog entries. I have not however been resting on my laurels that is for sure. It seems that over the past few months I have been on fire with a renewed fever in my heart to carry a message to anyone that will listen and share it with others. The fact that so many people have come out and helped support me in my travels and then in the project to get the trailer going was absolutely breathtaking.

“Grateful souls focus on the happiness and abundance present in their lives and this in turn attracts more abundance and joy towards them.” 
― Stephen Richards

When I blogged last I thanked everyone that took part in the fundraising project to secure the trailer. That trailer is going to allow me to carry more info and stay on the road for longer periods of time and longer trips across the country. Since the last entry I have been a very busy person traveling around New England getting my medical moved out of Providence and up to the West Roxbury VA system where now all of my specialist and primary care will be able to communicate much better. This has already started to pay off better for me in allowing me to concentrate all my appointments around one timeframe and place.

Not only does this improve my care but it streamlines the time spent hanging out at doctors offices allowing me to better serve other veterans and people in need. I am so grateful that I am given an opportunity to share my life with so many others and hopefully make a difference in their lives. Mike and I have been able to go back to MCI Framingham where he was raised as a puppy and visit with the staff and inmates along with Planet Dog who will be doing a piece on the amazing work the prisons are doing with Americas VetDogs changing lives. Mike was able to meet up with his weekend puppy raiser and show off how he has grownup but still remembers how important they were in his life. 

To be able to share these time with these families has been such a great feeling for all of us. It is not a common experience to be able to have times like this and for us to have both the prison and then the weekend raiser time all in one day was mind boggling. I can not say thank you enough to all those people for their generosity in helping give me my life back through Mike.

We (Mike & I ) went to WestPort CT where we had a great meet and greet with the Choice Pet and Star 99.9 Radio Station guys. There are so many great organizations out there helping to raise awareness and money for nonprofits like VetDogs. I am honored everyday to be asked to help out by telling my story of how these dogs helped save my life. How Iris my first Service Dog helped steer the doctors to the right diagnose allowing them to change my meds and get my drivers license back. So many ways my life has been changed I could go on for pages and pages. Oh wait I have over time feel free to go back in time and read past blog entries to see some of how things have changed. 

As I sign off tonight please keep my brother in arms in your prayers. I got a call yesterday while I was in Boston telling me that Brian was going to have to have brain surgery. Brian has been featured in my blog also. Due to circumstances beyond his control there were issues that were going to be major obstacles. One of the greatest gifts of my disability is the ability to help others sometimes. I was able to jump in the truck and come to Virginia and help for a bit. Brian will have his surgery in a couple days and everything looks like it will be fine. Please keep him and his family in your prayers during this time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hold the presses!

After that East Coast run a lot was learned about camping in my camper and how to make things work. I love the camper don't get me wrong, just due to it's compact size I learned that having some storage for supplies and other things would be a nice addition.

So in light of the new enlightened ways of extended periods on the road, I have been in discussions with other seasoned truck campers and the answer appears to be in a small cargo trailer. This will give us room to pack up the needed supplies along with the added flyers and other information about VetDogs and other Veteran issues I am constantly speaking about.

My biggest problem of course is the fact that I am on a fixed income so making a leap of faith to get this trailer is a tad nerve racking. I was speaking to friends and they mentioned going up to and starting a gofundme page to help defer the cost.

I did that today. Deep down I feel like I am begging and I should not be doing this because it is not a job just a personal mission to help others however everyone I speak to has encouraged me to give it a try. So please do not feel obligated in any way but if you feel moved to donate a few bucks toward a trailer I am working to raise up to 3k. With taxes and registration that will get it covered.

The link to the go fund me page is

Thank you all and I am sorry I am even putting it out there to be honest.


God Bless

Monday, February 22, 2016

East Coast Traveler a little over 4,000 miles driven by the end!

Mike & I had our first long range adventure!

We took off just in time to miss out on the first major snow fall of the year 2016! We left in a cold rain but that was nothing compared to what would follow the next day. As we followed all our friends (and of course prodded them about their misfortune) and the heavy wet snow fall we ventured into a much warmer clear sunny skyline. Annapolis, MD accepted us with open arms allowing Mike & I to come in and tell all about how America's VetDogs changes lives. We opened some doors to potential sponsorships for the upcoming 5/10k road race which was our goal.

I know the opening picture of the eagles from Conowingo Dam may not match up with our timeline but I did not have an opportunity to shoot any pictures while working with the Chair for the upcoming race. Please do take a moment to go and check out the race and help our friends like Lisa soar to new heights with their personal fundraising (or any of the other runners if you know them). You will of course notice the first picture Lisa uses is a picture of Mike sitting in her car between my legs. She says that she's holding more hostage in hopes of getting donations for the run. So please hurry and make your donation so we can free Mikes pictures for the world to see!

I made a personal stop next down in the Richmond area to visit another Veteran who is awaiting a Service/Guide Dog. While at that stop Mike had the opportunity to hang and play with one of the future puppies in the Puppy programs. You can check out those pictures here

Our next stop on the whirlwind tour was a quick run down to the beach in South Caroline where Mike & I watched the Super Bowl with a dear friend who has transplanted down there. We hung out for a bit but do to my mission and desire to be on the road we moved on mid day Monday.I made a quick stop in GA at Hunter Army Airfield to see the huge changes there. (I went through the Ranger Indoctrination Program there before before going to Ranger School. Wow, what memories.  After a short stop we jumped back into the truck and moved on down the road to Florida. Our first night in Florida was spend in a rest stop instead of trying to find a campground. We love being in a Truck Camper where the side of the road is just as good if not better then any campground out there.

For the most part of our time in Florida we centered out of Ft Lauderdale and jumped around to places like the Everglades for a few days. We went as far as Ft Meyers and checked out some Manatees warming themselves in the heat of the local power plant at Manatee State Park. The Everglades were warm and refreshing our campsite was well off the beaten path (Mitchell's Landing) one of our National Park Service sites where they do take good care of us Disabled Vet's. For those that have yet to grab your NPS Access Pass do it, you get half price for camping and free access into all parks.
I wish I had a chance to shoot more pictures while I was out in the glades but other things came up and I will leave it at that. in the meantime I have posted a few more interesting pictures here.  Feel free to check them out there are some good bird shots and some great gator shots. Mike had no interest at all in any of them all he was doing the whole time was keeping his eyes on me. 

After three nights in the glades we went back to Ft Lauderdale to meet up with the Classic Car Cruise peeps. What can I say about a great group of people, these guys and gals of all ages get together every year and take a cruise to a sunny destination.  While they cruise not only do they have a digital car show but they have a fund raiser and for the past 3 years they have supported America's VetDogs as their Charity of Choice! The first year they took up the banner for AVD Iris and I cruised with them and they raised enough money to name a puppy. Last year we were unable to go along but they actually raised enough to name two puppies that are currently in the Florida Penitentiary

This year the main purpose of our trip was to go see this amazing group off and let them know how much America's VetDogs and us Veterans that receive these dogs appreciate what they are doing. It is one thing to go to an auction or a fundraiser but to live a fundraiser for a week or this years trip is 9 days in the Caribbean. For the first time ever they had their first event onshore so that Mike & I could be there and speak to them. At that event the Corporate CEO and CFO of Cruise Planners, came down to present a check to Vetdogs and also partake in the first of the auction evenings. They raised over 3k that night alone so I am looking forward to hearing all about the amazing trip and how they will change lives with their donations.
Once the commitments were done we scooted over to downtown Ft Lauderdale and took a water taxi around the intercostal. What a great way to see the sights.  We saw ships that cost more then my dreams and houses that I would be afraid to walk through let alone live in. Give me a minute with their owners and I could explain how VetDogs changes lives though and maybe even get some donations to help other veterans out.

Once we finished up with the water taxi we headed north hoping to get to the northern tip of FL. There is a great little State Park there that has some wonderful history. Fort Clinch State Park was a great stop after a night in another rest area, yes I am getting older and just not up to doing those 600+ mile drives in one day.  A day on the water taxi took a bunch of steam out of me too.  I do have some pictures posted here also from the real camera

Our Next stop was a planned visit at the Inlays right outside of Ft Bragg in Fayetteville, NC we spent a couple days there then ventured north to the Aberdeen MD area where we ran into a family that raises puppies for the Foundation and also took our chances trying to sight and capture some of those amazing Bald Eagles. With an early trip out to Conowingo Dam we were able to snap some pictures albeit not great action or quality due to the weather. The shear number of eagles present made the stop worthwhile in my book.

And to finish off the longest journey in the camper we have the longest Blog entry. I hope I have given a slice of the adventure to you and please remember to check out the VetDogs pages either Lisa's race page where you can sponsor her or my travel page where you can make a donation directly to Vetdogs. 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.

God Bless and have a wonderful day!