—By Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day 2013, I would love to also celebrate the beings that are now helping veteran come back from the brink, time after time.  Lives that have often been spared who then turn around and rescue the rescuer.  They may have been bred and born to serve their disabled masters who need them, as their masters served their country.  There are several groups who enable vets to find needy companions.  These rescues often turn around and, as one solider put it; “She was the force that pulled me back into society.”
The sentiment of the power of an animal’s love and companionship is echoed over and over again on the Internet.  YouTube videos of service personnel coming home from war being greeted by their furry companions with the exuberance and abandon usually have over a million hits.  For some, they didn’t have a companion animal before they left for war.  It may have been easier as they were deployed, again and again.  They may not have wanted the responsibility of finding suitable caregivers for their pets, for the short and possibly long term.  However, upon their return from duty, after all the trauma they endured, many of these soldiers found themselves struggling to return to what they use to know.
photo courtesy of Patriot Paws
Enter several organizations like Pets for Vets, Pets for Patriots and Vets Adopt Pets to name a few.  These organizations recognized a need and filled it with a passion and commitment that has saved many 2 and 4-legged lives.  It has become commonplace now to train service dogs to become lifelines for soldiers returning with outward and inward scars.  Both companion and service animal have become partners with our most severely injured vets, those with observable and unobservable injuries.  Organizations like Hero Dog, ECAD, Patriots Paws and Vets Move Forward adjusted their training or expanded their program of services provided, to meet the veterans needs.   The service animal now fulfills a task the veterans are no longer able to perform for themselves.
It is my distinct pleasure to have met many of the people providing these animals and I whole-heartedly support them in their endeavor.  When you work with people and animals like I do, you are bound to cross paths with a patriot and their animal that are in conflict with another person. I endeavor to help find a peaceful way to solve the problem while keeping their animals. 
I support the findings that pets make our lives better. For patriots returning home from war, this knowing could be the difference between a life worth living and death.  Everyday 11 returning service personnel take their own lives.  The need for more companion and service pet connectors and trainers cannot be made any clearer.  Thank you all for your service. Thank you too, to all the connectors of pets with patriots.  You have helped rescue the rescuer. 
On this Veterans Day 2013 let us thank God for the continued safe return of our service men and women.  Thank you for your service and sacrifice.  Take a minute and thank the people who provided them with their link back from war to peace, in the form of an animal companion or service apparatus.  These people enabled many a returning hero to find the furry companion with an ear to hear and devotion to give.  A simple look or lick will encourage their person to take the next logical step and not give up the fight. Paying it forward in a way only a pet could.  You always find you receive so much more from these companion relationships than you ever give.
—Debra Hamilton

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