On this Veterans Day we want to thank all of our soldiers that are fighting in the war as well as those who have served in the past to defend our country.
A story in the Sun Times http://www.suntimes.com/23645429-418/service-dog-helps-us-army-veteran-lead-somewhat-of-a-normal-life.html touched my heart on this Veterans Day. It is a story of a 31 year-old veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb and sustained several injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. His name is Chris Maddeford. Returning home from the war was very difficult for this injured U.S. Army Sergeant. We hear it so often as soldiers return home. They have a hard time readjusting to civilian life whether they are injured or not. Imagine returning with brain injury.
Maddeford was given a service dog who helps him with his everyday life. A dog, a best friend as our pets are often deemed, really made the difference with his adjustment period and reintegrating into society. Maddeford suffers from many deficits that can be attributed to his brain injury including depression and anxiety. His dog, AJ helps to comfort him in his times of need. He also is there for his physical limitations. He responds to commands to make his life so much easier. Madefford stated; “ “I didn’t feel normal. I didn’t really have a purpose or any hope. And it wasn’t until I got AJ that it kind of brought me out, basically back into society.” As an animal lover and a dog owner without the issues that Maddeford has had to deal with, I can certainly appreciate the unconditional love and comfort a pet can give you.
We have talked about pet therapy in our TBI Voices projects. Dogs, especially, are loyal, non-judgmental and very forgiving of our short-comings. They are constant companions who require very little in return. One of the survivors we interviewed, Michael, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. He talks about how his dog has helped him through anxiety as well as other deficits he has en countered from his brain injury. Michael states; “But when I would get upset or angry and he was around he’d help calm me down. He would – He was always – He was there. And he made sure that I knew it and I made sure he knew that I was always around. And he was a great asset to me.” If you are interested in reading Michael’s brain injury story click here.
We need to thank the National Education for Assistance Dog Services, and specifically part of the Canines for Combat Veterans program. They trained and provided Chris Maddeford with AJ his American Labrador Retriever. This is an organization located in Massachusetts that trains service dogs and provides them to veterans in need, free of charge. Their way of giving back to those who put their lives on the line for our country.
Happy Veterans Day to all our comrades present day and past.
If you are a veteran in need of assistance with a brain injury, please visit our Veterans Brain Injury Website.