Day by day, Veterans engage with their service dogs and the journey begins. Post-traumatic stress presents in many ways depending on the source of the trauma. Service dogs are trained to help mitigate the individual’s symptoms and triggers. The Veterans featured have trained the (rescue) dogs they were partnered with under the guidance of Operation Freedom Paws. The awe-inspiring transformations that take place are a testament to the power of the human-canine bond. Together Veterans and their service dogs are on a path to help one another heal.

US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle was aboard the USS Tripoli when it hit a mine during Desert Storm. Dave suffered a traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. He finds solace with his service dog Laddie and together they are blazing new trails.

US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle was aboard the USS Tripoli when it hit a mine during Desert Storm. Dave suffered a traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. He finds solace with his service dog Laddie and together they are blazing new trails.

US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle learned about service dogs while watching the TV series “Dogs of War.” Still desperate after years of sobriety and therapy, he considered a service dog. “Laddie helps relieve my anxiety, partly because he goes everywhere with me. He gives me somewhere else to focus.”

“Every night when we go to bed he does a check-in. Before I go to sleep he sits right next to me, he lays across my chest and makes sure I’m okay to go to sleep. When I wake up now, he’s right there.” US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle and his service dog Laddie.

“Every night when we go to bed he does a check-in. Before I go to sleep he sits right next to me, he lays across my chest and makes sure I’m okay to go to sleep. When I wake up now, he’s right there.” US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle and his service dog Laddie.

US Army veteran Bill with his service dog Colt taking a pause during class. Bill finds support and comfort with Colt. The connection between them is strong.

US Army veteran Bill with his service dog Colt taking a pause during class. Bill finds support and comfort with Colt. The connection between them is strong.

US Army veteran Alex Gries served in a combat role during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “I knew I had severe PTSD. It affects my personal life. I push people away. Since I’ve had Sherman a lot of my focus has been on him and it’s helping me get feelings back into my personal life. He’s put that cherry on top of my life.”

US Army veteran Alex Gries served in a combat role during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “I knew I had severe PTSD. It affects my personal life. I push people away. Since I’ve had Sherman a lot of my focus has been on him and it’s helping me get feelings back into my personal life. He’s put that cherry on top of my life.”

US Marine Corps veteran Felipe with his service dog Kachina in training at Operation Freedom Paws.

US Marine Corps veteran Felipe with his service dog Kachina in training at Operation Freedom Paws.

“I didn’t want help. Ain’t nothing wrong with me bro’. Another thing I picked up from Somalia was anger,” says US Marine Corps veteran Carlos Vera who sought the help of a service dog and was partnered with Ruthie. Carlos was among the first Marines to arrive in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.

“I didn’t want help. Ain’t nothing wrong with me bro’. Another thing I picked up from Somalia was anger,” says US Marine Corps veteran Carlos Vera who sought the help of a service dog and was partnered with Ruthie. Carlos was among the first Marines to arrive in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.

Carlos Vera, his daughter, and service dog Ruthie. Families are encouraged to join in the veteran/service dog training program so that they all can participate in the healing journey.

Carlos Vera, his daughter, and service dog Ruthie. Families are encouraged to join in the veteran/service dog training program so that they all can participate in the healing journey.

Service dog Ruthie covered in love with Marine Corps veteran Carlos Vera and his two daughters.

Carlos Vera, his daughter, and service dog Ruthie. Families are encouraged to join in the veteran/service dog training program so that they all can participate in the healing journey.

US Marine Corps veteran Chris Ramirez with his service dog Bobby. Chris served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Like many veterans Chris believed that asking for help signaled weakness. He finally sought out the help of a service dog. Bobby eases the daily struggle with post-traumatic stress.

US Marine Corps veteran Chris Ramirez with his service dog Bobby. Chris served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Like many veterans Chris believed that asking for help signaled weakness. He finally sought out the help of a service dog. Bobby eases the daily struggle with post-traumatic stress.

On a break at training class, Vietnam Veteran Marv Lewis rests with his service dog Kairu by his side. “Kairu helps me in a lot of ways. Sometimes she’ll jump on my lap if she knows I’m depressed. I have a hearing loss from a shelling gone bad so I can’t hear somebody coming in the house but she alerts me by her reaction.”

On a break at training class, Vietnam Veteran Marv Lewis rests with his service dog Kairu by his side. “Kairu helps me in a lot of ways. Sometimes she’ll jump on my lap if she knows I’m depressed. I have a hearing loss from a shelling gone bad so I can’t hear somebody coming in the house but she alerts me by her reaction.”

US Army veteran Alex Gries and her wife Alma with service dog Sherman resting comfortably. Sherman has helped lead Alex out of a dark place where she was not able to trust anyone, even herself. He has helped her show love and feel closeness again.

US Army veteran Alex Gries and her wife Alma with service dog Sherman resting comfortably. Sherman has helped lead Alex out of a dark place where she was not able to trust anyone, even herself. He has helped her show love and feel closeness again

Service dog Sherman wears his vest that displays the patch: “Woman Veteran Iraqi Freedom." He is the service dog of US Army Veteran Alex Gries who served in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Service dog Sherman wears his vest that displays the patch: “Woman Veteran Iraqi Freedom.” He is the service dog of US Army Veteran Alex Gries who served in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

US Army Veteran Melissa and her service dog Holly travel from Los Angeles for monthly training at Operation Freedom Paws. Melissa served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. With Holly, she is on a healing path, going on new adventures once thought not possible.

US Army Veteran Melissa and her service dog Holly travel from Los Angeles for monthly training at Operation Freedom Paws. Melissa served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. With Holly, she is on a healing path, going on new adventures once thought not possible.

Kevin Bearb’s service in the US Air Force took a toll, leaving him depressed and withdrawn. He learned about service dogs and was partnered with Mel. "Since having Mel, I’m coming back into that world I used to be in. She doesn’t judge me if I make a mistake. Having her with me gives me confidence that we can take on any task."

Kevin Bearb’s service in the US Air Force took a toll, leaving him depressed and withdrawn. He learned about service dogs and was partnered with Mel. “Since having Mel, I’m coming back into that world I used to be in. She doesn’t judge me if I make a mistake. Having her with me gives me confidence that we can take on any task.”

US Army Veteran Denny McLaughlin and his service dog Abbey. Like most Vietnam Vets, he lived silently with PTSD before being diagnosed and treated. Having Abbey changed his life. He could start leaving the house and walking to the store. Denny was awarded three Bronze Stars for his service in the Vietnam War.

US Army Veteran Denny McLaughlin and his service dog Abbey. Like most Vietnam Vets, he lived silently with PTSD before being diagnosed and treated. Having Abbey changed his life. He could start leaving the house and walking to the store. Denny was awarded three Bronze Stars for his service in the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Veterans Denny McLaughlin and Ed Shaffer have become best friends since meeting at Operation Freedom Paws. Each of them provide mentorship and friendship to many of the younger veterans and these two are not without humor. They manage to get everyone laughing somewhere along the line in each class.

US Army Veteran Denny McLaughlin and his service dog Abbey. Like most Vietnam Vets, he lived silently with PTSD before being diagnosed and treated. Having Abbey changed his life. He could start leaving the house and walking to the store. Denny was awarded three Bronze Stars for his service in the Vietnam War.

US Army veteran Mike and his service dog Maverick during a pause at Operation Freedom Paws. Together they are on a healing journey.

US Army veteran Mike and his service dog Maverick during a pause at Operation Freedom Paws. Together they are on a healing journey.

Vietnam Veterans, with their service dogs, meeting one another at class. There are several Vietnam Vets with service dogs at Operation Freedom Paws and even though their training is completed, many still attend class and help mentor some of the new, younger veterans.

Vietnam Veterans, with their service dogs, meeting one another at class. There are several Vietnam Vets with service dogs at Operation Freedom Paws and even though their training is completed, many still attend class and help mentor some of the new, younger veterans.

US Army veteran Bazyli with his service dog Kameza training at Operation Freedom Paws. Kameza is constantly by Bazyli’s side, alerting him to the onset of pain and reminding him to sit down and take break.

US Army veteran Bazyli with his service dog Kameza training at Operation Freedom Paws. Kameza is constantly by Bazyli’s side, alerting him to the onset of pain and reminding him to sit down and take break.

US Veteran and his service dog moving through a quick-paced exercise during training class.

US Veteran and his service dog moving through a quick-paced exercise during training class.

US Army veteran Ed Shaffer and his service dog Panther. Ed served two tours in Vietnam, endured an unspeakable homecoming and had difficulty fitting back into life at home. Like many Vietnam Vets, he lived in silence and confusion for more than 40 years until he was diagnosed with PTSD and ailments from Agent Orange.

US Army veteran Ed Shaffer and his service dog Panther. Ed served two tours in Vietnam, endured an unspeakable homecoming and had difficulty fitting back into life at home. Like many Vietnam Vets, he lived in silence and confusion for more than 40 years until he was diagnosed with PTSD and ailments from Agent Orange.

Vietnam Veteran Ed Shaffer and a young client with disabilities have become good buddies. Operation Freedom Paws also provides service dogs for children and non-veterans with disabilities.

Vietnam Veteran Ed Shaffer and a young client with disabilities have become good buddies. Operation Freedom Paws also provides service dogs for children and non-veterans with disabilities.

Suffering with post-traumatic stress, US Coast Guard Ray Abreu takes a pause during training with his service dog Sunny. “Things have changed since I met Sunny. You have no idea how much he has helped me turn around. I went from ‘closed Ray’ with my hat and shades to losing the shades. I was shedding my disguise.”

Suffering with post-traumatic stress, US Coast Guard Ray Abreu takes a pause during training with his service dog Sunny. “Things have changed since I met Sunny. You have no idea how much he has helped me turn around. I went from ‘closed Ray’ with my hat and shades to losing the shades. I was shedding my disguise.”

Two veterans, a soldier and a Marine, on a break from service dog training. There is a connection and camaraderie between the two servicemen as they have shared experiences in war. Quiet time with their dogs is comforting and helps keep them focused in the moment.

Two veterans, a soldier and a Marine, on a break from service dog training. There is a connection and camaraderie between the two servicemen as they have shared experiences in war. Quiet time with their dogs is comforting and helps keep them focused in the moment.

After leaving the service, US Army veteran Jerry Schock was seriously injured when an unlicensed driver crashed into him. His crushed leg was amputated and he sustained a traumatic brain injury. His service dog BB, a “career change” dog from Guide Dogs of the Desert, is key in helping with Jerry’s mobility.

After leaving the service, US Army veteran Jerry Schock was seriously injured when an unlicensed driver crashed into him. His crushed leg was amputated and he sustained a traumatic brain injury. His service dog BB, a “career change” dog from Guide Dogs of the Desert, is key in helping with Jerry’s mobility.

With his service dog BB, US Army veteran Jerry Schock is now able to be out in crowded places as she will “block” so that people do not get too close. Thanks to BB, he is able to walk without a crutch and has gained confidence in walking with his prosthetic leg.

With his service dog BB, US Army veteran Jerry Schock is now able to be out in crowded places as she will “block” so that people do not get too close. Thanks to BB, he is able to walk without a crutch and has gained confidence in walking with his prosthetic leg.

US Army veteran Steve Loy served in the Vietnam War. He was "welcomed home" to jeers and name calling, like so many other Vietnam Vets. For years he lived with post-traumatic stress and ailments from Agent Orange before being diagnosed. His service dog Merlin and their partnership has been life changing.

US Army veteran Steve Loy served in the Vietnam War. He was “welcomed home” to jeers and name calling, like so many other Vietnam Vets. For years he lived with post-traumatic stress and ailments from Agent Orange before being diagnosed. His service dog Merlin and their partnership has been life changing.

Vietnam War veteran Steve Loy and his service dog Merlin are never apart. If Steve becomes anxious, Merlin alerts him, sometimes before he even realizes what is happening. Through scent service dogs are able to detect anxiety, among other things, due to chemical changes in their handler’s body.

Vietnam War veteran Steve Loy and his service dog Merlin are never apart. If Steve becomes anxious, Merlin alerts him, sometimes before he even realizes what is happening. Through scent service dogs are able to detect anxiety, among other things, due to chemical changes in their handler’s body.

Service dog Merlin is attentive 24/7 to Vietnam War veteran Steve Loy. The communication between these two is remarkable. Merlin can detect the onset of night terrors and will awaken Steve with a soft howl or a lick to the face usually before the nightmare begins.

Service dog Merlin is attentive 24/7 to Vietnam War veteran Steve Loy. The communication between these two is remarkable. Merlin can detect the onset of night terrors and will awaken Steve with a soft howl or a lick to the face usually before the nightmare begins.

Vietnam Veteran Marv Lewis with his service dog Kairu who never fixes her attention elsewhere. When Marv is feeling uncomfortable in a crowd, Kairu will “block” (create a barrier) to keep him out of range of people. She also helps with mobility issues due to multiple surgeries from injuries sustained during his military service.

Vietnam Veteran Marv Lewis with his service dog Kairu who never fixes her attention elsewhere. When Marv is feeling uncomfortable in a crowd, Kairu will “block” (create a barrier) to keep him out of range of people. She also helps with mobility issues due to multiple surgeries from injuries sustained during his military service.

US Marine Corps veteran Emilio Gallego adjusts the collar of his service dog Samson. They are together 24/7. Emilio is engaging more with people when they go places and he says it’s good for advocating too. Many people don’t understand the benefits service dogs provide for people with “hidden wounds,” such as PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury.

US Marine Corps veteran Emilio Gallego adjusts the collar of his service dog Samson. They are together 24/7. Emilio is engaging more with people when they go places and he says it’s good for advocating too. Many people don’t understand the benefits service dogs provide for people with “hidden wounds,” such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury.

After surviving an IED blast during his deployment to Iraq (OIF), Marine Corps veteran Emilio Gallegos broke down after coming home, confused by his anxiety and anger. He learned about service dogs and was partnered with Samson. He is never alone. Emilio was awarded the Purple Heart while serving in the Marine Corps.

After surviving an IED blast during his deployment to Iraq (OIF), Marine Corps veteran Emilio Gallegos broke down after coming home, confused by his anxiety and anger. He learned about service dogs and was partnered with Samson. He is never alone. Emilio was awarded the Purple Heart while serving in the Marine Corps.

US Army veteran Ramon Lomeli with his daughter Ellowyn and her service dog Bravo. “Bravo is Ellowyn’s seizure alert. It’s a big relief knowing that we can count on him. He’s there.” says Ramon.

During one of his deployments for Iraq (OIF), US Army veteran Adam Rowland took a mortar hit to his right eye socket. Due to a series of mishaps during treatment he also lost vision in his left eye, leaving him completely blind. He was partnered with Valor, his guide dog/PTSD service dog. Adam says, “He’s the best battle buddy you could ever ask for.”

During one of his deployments for Iraq (OIF), US Army veteran Adam Rowland took a mortar hit to his right eye socket. Due to a series of mishaps during treatment he also lost vision in his left eye, leaving him completely blind. He was partnered with Valor, his guide dog/PTSD service dog. Adam says, “He’s the best battle buddy you could ever ask for.”

US Army veteran Jeff Wilson served for ten years with two deployments to Iraq (OIF). After leaving the military he spent years without a diagnosis for PTSD. He also suffered physical injuries. He eventually learned about service dogs and was partnered with Selah. She helps ease his daily struggle and “always puts a smile on my face."

US Army veteran Jeff Wilson served for ten years with two deployments to Iraq (OIF). After leaving the military he spent years without a diagnosis for PTSD. He also suffered physical injuries. He eventually learned about service dogs and was partnered with Selah. She helps ease his daily struggle and “always puts a smile on my face.”

Veterans Jeff Wilson and Steve Loy with their service dogs having a good chuckle during class. The camaraderie between veterans is strong which helps with many issues, including trust.

Veterans Jeff Wilson and Steve Loy with their service dogs having a good chuckle during class. The camaraderie between veterans is strong which helps with many issues, including trust.

Veteran John and his service dog Fonzie take a quiet break from training class. Together they “walk the walk” and it’s clear their bond is strong, full of love and a lot of humor.

Veteran John and his service dog Fonzie take a quiet break from training class. Together they “walk the walk” and it’s clear their bond is strong, full of love and a lot of humor.

Veteran Leah Montoya, her daughter and service dog Rufus head into the main building at Operation Freedom Paws for the last training exercises of the day. Ahead of them is Phyllis a tireless supporter of OFP dressed as Santa’s elf. She is there for every holiday with home baked goodies and special treats, for people and dogs alike.

Veteran Leah Montoya, her daughter and service dog Rufus head into the main building at Operation Freedom Paws for the last training exercises of the day. Ahead of them is Phyllis a tireless supporter of OFP dressed as Santa’s elf. She is there for every holiday with home baked goodies and special treats, for people and dogs alike.

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