Emilio Gallegos and his service dog Samson. Emilio served in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1999-2010 (Iraq).

Service dog and training provided by Operation Freedom Paws.

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“In present day war, you have instant access to your family. Hours removed, minutes removed from a firefight possibly. It’s good and bad. It’s good because you can let someone know, ‘I’m alive.’ It’s bad because the two worlds become mixed together. When you come home you’re still in both worlds. It’s easy to mask these feelings and suppress them and then you deal with them in the wrong way.

“Samson helps me decompress. I talk to him a lot too. When I’m at the store, buying cereal, I ask him, ‘What should we get today? What do you think? Maybe some Fruit Loops?’ People in the aisle are like, ‘Is that guy talkin’ to his dog?’ Having Samson gives me a chance to love someone every day. Sometimes I’ll step outside of the house, to run to my car quick, or go into the garage. When I come back in, he gets so excited, ‘Where did you go?’ I’m like, ‘Man I was just outside a couple of minutes.’ It’s easy to get lost in alone-ness but now, I’m not alone, I’m never alone, you know.”

-Emilio Gallegos

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