A group of high school seniors in South Carolina want to raise money to help local veterans get canine support.
They were inspired by Marine veteran James Moore and his dog, Boss, to raise money to buy and train service dogs.
Moore, who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, has PTSD and has had trouble adjusting to civilian life following an honorable discharge.
"I deployed out of there to Ramadi, Iraq in '08. I re-enlisted for another four years in Iraq," he told WISTV. "From there, I went to Korea twice, and I deployed to Afghanistan."
After Moore returned stateside, he stopped working out and stayed home because he felt depressed. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD, but he had a bad reaction to the antidepressants prescribed by the VA. After some internet searching, Moore learned about the value of service dogs. He already had Boss, and so he set up a training session with Service Dogs for Veterans.
"It has helped us so much. I'm able to do things with my family again. I'm able to actually coach baseball and softball again," Moore said.
Moore decided to share his success story with seniors at Gilbert High School, and his presentation made them think about other veterans who could use that helping hand. They decided to make it their senior community service project.
"Why not choose veterans? They sacrifice their time. They sacrifice themselves. They sacrifice their family. They miss holidays. They don't get to take days off like we do," senior Anslee Snelling said.
"Having Boss actually really, like, impacted his life and he was able to go from having to stay at home, staying in the car to being able to show emotions again, and that really is what we wanted to do," Snelling said. "It really means a lot to us to know that we can change somebody’s life just by a dog."
The seniors are working with the same group that helped train Boss, Service Dogs for Veterans.
The power of a canine companion
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' website, "owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed. Dogs can help people feel better by providing companionship. All dog owners, including those who have [PTSD] can experience these benefits."
A recent study conducted by Purdue University (in collaboration with K9s for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to veterans) shows that service dogs can benefit military veterans suffering from PTSD in multiple ways.
“We found that the group of veterans with service dogs had significantly lower levels of PTSD symptomology than those who did not have a service dog,” Assistant Professor Maggie O’Haire said in the school's statement. “They also had lower levels of depression, lower anxiety and increased social participation, meaning a willingness to leave their house and go engage with society in different activities.”
The study, published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, also shows that service dogs can increase a person's resilience, improve their relationships with others and a person is less likely to miss work.
Moore credits Boss with helping him do just that.
"Having PTSD, you're always going to live with it. I'm always going to have it. It's not about getting rid of it. It's about learning to how to live with it ... And having Boss, I've learned how to manage it."
If you'd like to help the seniors at Gilbert High School with their project, you can write check to Gilbert High School and mail it to 840 Main St. Gilbert, South Carolina 29054. When you mail the check, be sure to include a note so they know it's for the senior project. (We are also looking for an online mechanism for donations; if we find that, we'll update this story with that information.)