When veterans return from combat, many can't leave behind the terrors they witnessed. In the U.S., roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day — or one every 65 minutes — according to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The psychological pain of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) breaks up relationships, ends jobs and causes depression and other issues. To help manage the haunting memories and pain, some veterans have found respite in four-legged treatment. Trained service dogs have helped some veterans return to their lives after combat.
The documentary "To Be of Service" follows several American veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam and the dogs that help them cope with PTSD. The film was directed by Josh Aronson, known for the Oscar-nominated documentary "Sound and Fury" about deaf families.
Many of the veterans in the documentary had turned to medications, alcohol or illegal drugs to try to cope with life after combat. But the film shows how having to care for a dog gave them a sense of a purpose and an ever-present friend.
'I had to tell these stories'
The documentary follows nearly a dozen veterans including Glen Moody, who was a Navy Corpsman stationed with the Marines in Iraq. He never got into a fight in his life before he was deployed, but he returned an adrenaline junkie. He would get into bar brawls and ride his motorcycle drunk at 100 mph. He was heavily meditated to treat his PTSD, but never went out, eventually losing all his friends.
"They spend millions to make us warriors but not near enough to teach us to return home," Moody says.
After being paired with service dog Indy, his rage and anxiety has started to subside. He has made friends again and he rides his motorcycle "like an adult," he says.
It's stories like this that prompted producer Julie Sayres to get involved. She has been writing about and working with veterans for the past several years.
"I began to imagine how unsafe a veteran struggling with physical and emotional trauma must feel upon returning from war, to a world that doesn't have a clue what he or she has endured. It's isolating and terrifying, leading to never leaving the house, excessive drinking or drug use and in many cases, suicide. I began to explore what these amazing service dogs do to mitigate this kind of anguish," said Sayres.
"I've seen men and women come back to life after letting a dog into their life. I've seen families come together after the black cloud of despair is lifted from their father, mother, daughter or son. I had to tell these stories."
Currently, the film is scheduled for screenings in about a dozen cities, but more will likely be added. To find a screening near you or to find out how to schedule a community or educational screening, check out the film's website.
Here's a tissue-worthy peek at what to expect: