Meet AW2 Soldier Shenae Mitchell

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

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Spc. Shenae Mitchell addresses the Warrior Transition Command to launch the AW2 10th Anniversary commemoration.

While deployed in Afghanistan in June 2012 with the 82nd Airborne Division, Spc. Shenae Mitchell was crushed under 1,000 pounds of medical containers, called Hescro barriers. She sustained thirteen injuries that required intensive surgical treatment. After being medically evacuated from Afghanistan, Mitchell began her recovery and rehabilitation at the Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Unit. At Fort Belvoir, she was immediately introduced to the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) and her AW2 Advocate, Ayandria Barry.

During Mitchell’s recovery, Barry helped her navigate military residence training, including 496 hours of military correspondence courses. Mitchell has also completed 44 college credits toward an associate degree thus far during her recovery at Fort Belvoir. She credits Barry with anticipating questions and possible challenges and providing accurate answers every time. When Mitchell needed a tutor to retake her Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT) to raise her General Technical (GT) score, Barry found her a tutor through a local program in just weeks. Barry would arrange a ride if Mitchell needed to travel off post to support her recovery and transition goals, such as going to tutoring sessions. If Mitchell couldn’t find a ride, Barry would provide transportation herself.

Barry and Mitchell’s relationship extends past assistance with completing coursework and finding tutors. “Ms. Barry has been supportive not only from the military aspect,” said Mitchell. “She would build my hope and my courage up.”

Mitchell plans to re-enlist in the Army with a new Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and return to duty upon completing in-patient care. Barry supported Mitchell in submitting her paperwork to change her MOS to one more suited to her medical profile. She is currently waiting to hear whether she is approved for either of the two MOS options she has applied for: 27D (Paralegal) or 42A (Human Resource Assistant).

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Meet AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco and his daughter take a trip on the Austin Steam Train.

AW2 Veteran Karl Pasco and his daughter take a trip on the Austin Steam Train.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Karl Pasco, a two-time Purple Heart recipient and avid shooting enthusiast, was injured on two separate deployments in Iraq. On his first deployment in 2004, his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). After recovery, he redeployed to Iraq in 2006 and was hit by another IED. Among other injuries, Pasco sustained a shattered right leg, shrapnel in his left arm, ten broken ribs, three fractured vertebrae, a broken upper jaw, a bruised heart and shrapnel puncturing his chest. The first time he was injured, the US Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) had not yet been created and Pasco remembers having to navigate the recovery and transition process on his own. After his second attack, AW2 support began right away when he was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He returned to his home state of Texas once major surgeries were completed to continue his recovery at Fort Hood.

Pasco has worked with a number of AW2 Advocates over the years. “They would challenge me to attain the goals that I set,” he said of all of his AW2 Advocates. One of the most important goals for Karl was to be able to shoot again. He told AW2 that he wanted to build his own shooting range and they said, “Well then do it!” Pasco found planning the project and actually constructing the range extremely therapeutic.

While at Fort Hood, he created his own internship with the ROTC program at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Pasco knew that he did not want to spend his time at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) “sitting around,” so he went to work in their S3 operations as the Donations NCO and Activities NCO. He processed donations to the WTB for three years and helped coordinate activities for other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers at the WTB. Karl took many of his fellow WTB Soldiers hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, kayaking and more.

Pasco is currently a part-time student at Central Texas College, working towards his BA and MA. He has a very close relationship with his current AW2 Advocate, Carol Livengood, and takes pride in sending her updates on his rehabilitation progress. He sees Livengood quite often, as she works closely with another AW2 Advocate—his wife, Joy. Karl says of Joy, “she realized that she found a passion in her life that she didn’t realize—she wanted to help Soldiers.”

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Meet AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts celebrates the holidays with his Family.

AW2 Veteran Paul Roberts celebrates the holidays with his Family.

Retired Staff Sgt. Paul Roberts is a two-time Warrior Games medalist, a father of two, a federal employee and a proud member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). In the summer of 2009, Roberts was serving in Afghanistan when his truck was hit with an IED in a small ambush attack.

“I hit the windshield, and I was unconscious,” remembered Roberts, who sustained severe second- and third-degree burns and was the only survivor from the truck. “When I woke up, my face was on fire, the fire started eating through my gloves.” He was medically evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany and then to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, where he was introduced to AW2 and his first AW2 Advocate, Kimmy Davis.

During his recovery at BAMC, Roberts participated in the Operation Warfighter (OWF) internship program at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Though he was separating from the Army, Roberts was determined to continue to serve his country by working for the government. While at BAMC, Roberts also participated in wheelchair basketball, playing for the San Antonio Spurs wheelchair basketball team and for the Center for the Intrepid. “Wheelchair basketball was instrumental in my recovery and transition,” reflected Roberts. “It gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of drive.”

In 2012, Roberts medically retired from the Army and relocated to Washington, D.C., where he met his new local AW2 Advocate, Ayandria Barry. Barry signed Roberts up for federal job fairs and trainings to conduct practice interviews and help with his resume. He found a position with the Department of Justice and has been working there ever since. “I feel lucky that I had wonderful people at the Army Wounded Warrior Program help me transition from the Army to civilian life,” said Roberts.

Along with career and education planning, AW2 Advocates work with Soldiers and Veterans to navigate federal institutions, assist with financial planning and find local resources. Specifically, Barry secured a special lawnmower for the Roberts’ yard that accommodated the burns on Roberts’ legs. Roberts also needed a special wheelchair to train for and participate in the Warrior Games, which Barry obtained as well. Today, the Roberts Family considers Barry a staple around their household, not only as an AW2 Advocate, but also as a friend.

Editors Note: 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2). Read more about AW2′s decade of impact with more than 19,000 severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers at http://www.wtc.army.mil/announcements/aw2_10th_anniversary.html.

Did You Know? What is an AW2 Advocate?

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Retired Spc. Ira Brownridge Jr. with his Advocate, Melvin Kearney

Retired Spc. Ira Brownridge Jr. with his Advocate, Melvin Kearney

The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) has more than 200 AW2 Advocates, located at most Army installations and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. AW2 Advocates are dedicated to guiding eligible AW2 Soldiers and Veterans and their Families and Caregivers through recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration to achieve their personal goals, navigate government agencies and local resources, create financial plans, support education and career goals and anticipate challenges ahead. AW2 Advocates are often retired/former Soldiers, AW2 wounded warriors themselves, spouses of AW2 Soldiers and Veterans or individuals with professional backgrounds in the behavioral health and social work fields.

Each Soldier or Veteran entering the AW2 Program is paired with an AW2 Advocate to guide the Soldier throughout the recovery and transition process and toward achieving independence. AW2 Advocates counsel eligible AW2 Soldiers and Veterans and their Families/Caregivers regarding benefits information, career guidance, Continuation on Active Duty/Continuation on Reserve Duty (COAD/COAR), educational opportunities, financial audits, government agency coordination, local resources and tracking their Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) onto the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).

AW2 Advocates are onsite at more than 60 VA locations, where they educate AW2 Soldiers and Veterans on how to navigate the VA system and ensure continuity of care as AW2 Soldiers transition out of the Army. AW2 Advocates collaborate with VA Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) coordinators, help resolve appointment issues, VA benefits issues and facilitate applications for services such as the VA Adaptive Housing and Adaptive Vehicle grants and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. AW2 Advocates help transitioning Soldiers plan for a potential gap in between their Army pay and beginning their VA benefits and work with the VA to ensure they get their pay as quickly as possible.

AW2 Advocates assigned to Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) are engaged in the WTU Soldier’s mandated Comprehensive Treatment Plan (CTP) process. AW2 Families are an integral part of the CTP process, and AW2 Advocates facilitate conversations surrounding this process and the Family’s goals. They can help Families who are moving or traveling to the WTU with arranging housing, schooling and childcare. AW2 Advocates assist with applications for Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL) and Non-Medical Attendant (NMA).

AW2 Advocates are plugged in to the local communities and know all the different organizations that are available to support Soldiers, from locating job opportunities and scholarships to obtaining service dogs and adaptive transportation.

“Did You Know?” Series

We will post a blog every other week on the following five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during the AW2 10th Anniversary commemoration:
1) What is AW2?
2) AW2 Advocates
3) AW2 Career and Education
4) AW2 Pay and Benefits
5) VA Resources

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Want to share your story? Post a comment here or email us at usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.strategic-communications@mail.mil.

Veteran Uses AW2 Resources to Succeed in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division

Leaving the military can be a nerve-racking experience for a wounded, ill and injured Soldier, but Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Billy Guyton will attest to using the resources the Army offers to successfully transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

Guyton was hired by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), the organization that operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.

“I was looking for a job,” Guyton said. “I told my Advocate, and the next thing I knew I was being contacted by the hiring manager from DeCA.”

Guyton’s AW2 Advocate contacted the AW2 Career and Education Cell in hopes of getting him in the Expedited Referral Process, a process that connects AW2 Veterans with employers who are looking to hire wounded, ill and injured Veterans and have agreed to expedite the hiring process for qualified Veterans.

“Billy’s advocate submitted an issue requesting employment assistance,” said Mullen. “I was the ‘connector’ between Billy and DeCA, because I knew if I could get someone to speak with Billy, they would want to hire him.” 

“If a Soldier or Veteran is looking for employment, we ask that they contact their Advocate,” said Vicki Mullen, AW2 Labor Liaison Specialist. “The Advocate will notify us, and we will start the employment process.”

Guyton learned firsthand the process works but it requires the Soldier or Veteran to do their part to help.

“The resume plays a huge part in getting hired,” Mullen said. “Soldiers and Veterans should ensure their resumes contain all of the information required before submitting it for employment.” 

“If they have 5-10 years of experience and the federal resume is only a couple of paragraphs they have left out a lot of information,” she added. “Use all resources available to you i.e., ACAP, DOL, Transition Coordinators, etc.”

Guyton, who was recently promoted to a supervisory position, proves success can transfer from the military to the civilian workforce, but recommends a Soldier or Veteran take chances and use the resources available.

“I was an engineer in the military, but I’m working in logistics,” he said. “I’m glad DeCA saw that I had other skills to bring to the table.”

“Just because you are doing one thing in the military it doesn’t require you to do the same job as a civilian,” Guyton added. “Hopefully, Veterans and employers will continue to look beyond the military specialty title and focus on the military skills.”

Visit AW2’s old blog for additional stories on AW2’s career and education services and stories of Soldiers and Veterans successfully finding employment.

 

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) is the official U.S. Army program that assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families, wherever they are located, regardless of military status. Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. Through the local support of AW2 Advocates, AW2 strives to foster the Soldier’s independence. There are more than 19,000 Soldiers and Veterans currently in AW2.

Did You Know? What is AW2

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) was established 10 years ago to support severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers? AW2 is a major component of the Warrior Care and Transition Program (WCTP) under the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) and the Warrior Transition Command (WTC). Over the last decade AW2 has supported more than 19,000 Soldiers and Veterans in navigating processes and procedures that open doors to services, resources and benefits.  These resources build and strengthen abilities to adapt to daily life and empower AW2 Soldiers and Veterans to regain their independence.

Today, Soldiers who qualify for AW2 are assigned to the program as soon as possible after arriving at a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). AW2 supports these Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, either back into duty or on to civilian life.

To qualify for AW2, a Soldier must suffer from wounds, illness or injuries incurred in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, and receive or expect to receive at least a 30 percent rating from the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) for one or more of the conditions listed below, or receive a combines 50 percent IDES rating for any other combat/combat-related condition:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Severe loss of vision/blindness
  • Severe hearing loss/deafness
  • Fatal / incurable disease with limited life expectancy
  • Loss of limb
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Severe burns
  • Severe paralysis

Upon entry to the program, each AW2 Soldier and Veteran is paired with one of the more than 200 AW2 Advocates who guides the Soldier throughout the recovery and transition process and toward achieving independence. Together they collaborate to set goals for the Soldier’s and Family’s future to meet the personal needs and abilities of the individual AW2 Soldier or Veteran. Some common activities that AW2 Advocates support are:

  • Creating an action plan for life after transition
  • Coordinating with government agencies (i.e. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor)
  • Supporting Continuation on Active Duty/Continuation on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR)
  • Providing career guidance
  • Locating educational opportunities
  • Performing financial audits
  • Finding local resources
  • Navigating medical and Physical Evaluation Board (MEB/PEB)

AW2 Advocates collaborate with transition professionals at AW2 Headquarters to resolve issues related to careers and education, benefits, pay, the Department of Veterans Affairs and more. These AW2 transition professionals also use their vast knowledge and experience with wounded, ill and injured Soldiers to help write policies and guidance that affect all WTUs.

“Did You Know?” Series

We will post a blog every other week on the following five topics throughout our “Did You Know?” blog series during the AW2 Tenth Anniversary commemoration:

1)    What is AW2?

2)    AW2 Advocates

3)    AW2 Career and Education

4)    AW2 Pay and Benefits

5)    VA Resources

Is there another topic you want us to cover in the future? Want to share your story? Post a comment here or email us at usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.strategic-communications@mail.mil.

Did You Know? Meet the WTU Career and Education Readiness Team

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Do you know how many Cadre are involved in WTU Soldiers’ Career and Education Readiness (CER) activities?  Career and Education Readiness activities support wounded, ill and injured Soldiers as they transition, whether they remain in the Army or transition to Veteran status.  All Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers set career goals as part of their Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP).  Career and Education Readiness activities provide eligible Soldiers with the skills and knowledge they need to advance toward their career goals. Achieving career goals contributes positively to the rehabilitation and reintegration process, which is why there are so many Interdisciplinary Team members along with the Triad of Care available to support every Soldier.

You may already know that the Triad of Care – Primary Care Manager (PCM), Nurse Case Manager (NCM) and Squad Leader (SL) – coordinates to ensure all members of the WTU team operate synergistically to benefit the Soldier.   Nurse Case Managers keep team members up to date on the Soldier’s medical status and physical profile.  Squad Leaders coach, teach, mentor and counsel Soldiers on their responsibilities while participating in a CER activity.  They also ensure Soldiers are at their places of duty and coordinate with their work site supervisor for assessments.

What you may not know is that in addition to the Triad of Care, each CER-eligible Soldier also works with an interdisciplinary team that includes a Transition Coordinator (TC), Occupational Therapist (OT), Medical Management (M2) and Career Counselor (CC).   They may also participate in as external support programs such as the Army Continuing Education System (ACES) and Operation Warfighter (OWF).  Interdisciplinary Team members work together and inform one another of important updates and changes to ensure Soldiers have the most productive and successful CER experiences possible:

-       Transition Coordinator (TC): ensures the Soldier’s career goals line up with the CTP and helps coordinate CER activities.

-       Occupational Therapist – Registered (OTR):  completes Phase I goal setting with the Soldier and provides life skills training and goal reassessment throughout the Soldiers’ stay at the WTU.

-       Medical Management (M2):  works to determine eligibility for CER activities along with the WTU Commander.

-       Career Counselor (CC): counsels Soldiers on the logistics of career changes.

Transition professionals at Warrior Transition Command talk about Soldiers experiencing the “fog of recovery”, or the emotional and psychological difficulties that may accompany physical injuries.  Soldiers assigned to WTUs are encouraged to develop and strive to meet career goals to ease the fog. This often includes returning to the work force either in a familiar or new work environment.  The CER program, with the support of the Interdisciplinary Team, helps Soldiers prepare and plan a career path that will put them on the right track for returning to, or creating, a new normal.

For more information on Career and Education Readiness, visit the Career Planning webpage and the “Meet the WTU Career and Education Readiness Team” fact sheet.

Did You Know? Career and Education Readiness (CER)

By Caitlin Morrison, WTC Communications Division

Did you know that Career and Education Readiness (CER) activities support wounded, ill and injured Soldiers’ transition processes, whether they remain in the Army or transition to Veteran status?  All Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) Soldiers set career goals as part of their Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP).  Career and Education Readiness activities are designed to provide eligible Soldiers with the skills and knowledge they need to advance towards these career goals.

You may already know that Soldiers receive a Transition Coordinator (TC) during the in-processing stage.  You may also know that the TC is a key resource for Soldiers eligible to participate in CER activities. Transition Coordinators specialize in navigating career and education options based on the Soldier’s individual circumstances.

What you may not know is how many CER options are available to Soldiers. Career and Education Readiness activities may include internships, work site placements, training, professional certificates and education programs (including bachelor’s and master’s degree programs).  Soldiers who remain in the Army and choose to pursue a new Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) are directed towards specific internships and training courses that will best provide them the required skills and knowledge for their new MOS.  For those who expect to transition out of the Army, there are valuable work experiences and university courses that can set those Soldiers on the right path to achieve their post-transition career goals. The number of programs that the WTUs work with ensures that every Soldier finds a meaningful CER activity.

For more information on Career and Education Readiness, visit the Career Planning webpage and take a look at the Career and Education Readiness fact sheet.

Stay tuned for the next blog post on the Career and Education Readiness team members.


AW2 Veteran Explains Importance of Resources in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

Most people consider speaking about themselves a challenge, especially if it is to a crowd of people. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Robert Murafsky tackled this task in order to provide insights about thriving in today’s workforce as an AW2 Veteran.

“I knew I wanted to be a Soldier since I was a little kid watching the Army commercials on television,” said the Metuchen, N.J. native. “I thought when I joined the military, I would serve 20-plus years, retire, and spend the rest of my life fishing and falling asleep in my reclining chair.”

“However, my reality changed once I was wounded because I had to recover and refocus,” Murafsky added. “If it wasn’t for great programs like the Army Wounded Warrior Program, I wouldn’t have the job I have today working as an Army civilian.”

On August 28, 2006, while performing a search mission during a deployment in Hit, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an enemy sniper shot Murafsky in the face damaging his right eye.

“A few minutes into the search I felt an awful pain, heard a loud ringing, and everything started to go in slow motion,” Murafsky said. “I remember putting my hand to my face, pulling it back, and seeing lots of blood.”

He was taken to the Forward Operating Base for an initial assessment, then airlifted to a nearby base for surgery. After surgery, he was medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Despite a catastrophic injury, Murafsky navigated through the rehabilitation process, transitioned out of the military in May 2007, and qualified for AW2.

AW2 supports Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. This program, through the local support of AW2 Advocates, strives to foster the Soldier’s independence.

“I told my Advocate I was searching for a job, gave her my resume, and the next thing I know I’m being told to come in for an interview,” he said. “I have no idea what happened between giving her my resume and getting that phone call, but I know she had something to do with it.”

Murafsky currently works as a security specialist for the Department of the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.

“My first day working as an Army civilian was great because it kind of made me feel like I was back in the Army,” Murafsky said. “This job makes feel like I am helping out the Army.  It may be in a small way, but I consider myself part of the Army still.”

“This job has been great, and I feel like they didn’t hire me to check a box but to actually help a wounded warrior,” he added. “They put me in touch with programs to receive equipment that would help me with my disability and allow me to work in the best conditions possible.”

One program he finds particularly helpful is the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

CAP ensures that people with disabilities and wounded servicemembers have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government.

“We provide the equipment to allow people like Robert equal access to everything,” said Kameelah Montgomery, acquisition team leader of CAP. “There’s technology out there for these Soldiers and Veterans.”

Some examples of technology available for those who are blind or have low vision include Braille displays and translators, large print keyboards, or a compact and portable version of a closed-circuit television.

“They can receive it free of charge while in uniform,” she added.  “It’s theirs to keep forever because we want them to go out and be successful.”

To learn more about how to hire a Veteran at your organization, including an online toolkit and educational video for hiring managers, visit the Warrior Transition Command at www.WTC.army.mil/employers or for information about CAP, visit http://www.cap.mil.

Service Dog Provides Friendship and New Opportunities for an AW2 Soldier

AW2 Soldier Justin Miller’s service dog “Dinah” gave him the companionship and encouragement he needed to move forward with his recovery and transition.

Retired Army Sergeant and AW2 Soldier Justin Miller, who was injured on multiple occasions over the course of his military career, is a huge fan of companion dogs – specifically one called Dinah.

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate

While working to take charge of his life and deal with PTSD symptoms, he came in contact with Clear Path for Veterans, an organization in Chittenango, New York.  Clear Path’s Dogs2Vet program assists Veterans by matching them with a rescue dog.  They train the Veteran with the dog, creating a supportive bond that results in outstanding support to the Veteran and enhances their quality of life in the process. Following this training the dog is a service dog and the veteran gains the ability and confidence to deal with the many issues presented to them.

In the summer of 2012, Miller was paired with Dinah, a 3-year-old, rescue black Lab, who immediately provided him an emotional boost. Together, Miller and Dinah began the 18 month training program that Miller says not only enhanced his skills in working with Dinah but also helped him face life’s challenges. Though their training is not complete, Miller and Dinah have progressed to the final stages of training and expect an early graduation. Miller plans to continue the training to earn Therapy Dog qualification so Dinah could be used to help others and demonstrate the benefits of a service dog.

Other than the obvious, Dinah is trained to alert him when his anxiety rises – before he may even notice it.  When she hears the command ‘brace’ she helps support his body weight.  Miller shared that the biggest benefits for him are companionship and increased confidence – he is more at ease now and more comfortable socially.

Dinah accompanies Miller almost everywhere and will be joining him in college next semester. He is studying to become a recreational therapist with a goal to assist Veterans and others who have disabilities with adaptive needs.

Based on my experiences with Miller, it is evident that Clear Path for Veterans Dogs2Vets program has been a positive and instrumental factor in his ability to move on in his life and to put the pain of his injuries behind him.  He sees sharing his experiences as encouragement to other AW2 Soldiers who might benefit from a service dog, and he wants them to take the steps necessary to do what he did and enhance their life in a big way.

Clear Path for Veterans is a private, non for profit organization dedicated to helping military Veterans and their Families recover and reintegrate by offering a variety of support, training, vocational, and recreational programs in a rural setting of natural beauty. The organization offers many programs including outdoor activities, camping, vocational programs, and “talking circles” where Veterans can meet with each other and share their experiences and provide mutual support.

 

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