We've seen the statistics about suicide among our nation's military members. And the numbers don't lie. It's a big problem among those who return home from combat.
But supporters say the Patriot Dog Program can help a lot. And tonight, Monday, June 19, there's a local fund raiser to help pay for training for animals that may one day be a returning soldiers' best friend.
Luke Zilbert has already made a name for himself as a therapy dog who helps victims get through difficult testimony in court. He's now helping to launch the patriot dog program to assist military veterans returning from combat.
Organizer Beth Zilbert says the dogs have tremendous potential to help veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. "The suicide rate now among returning soldiers is at an alarming almost catastrophic rate. Almost eighteen suicides a day. More soldiers are dying from suicide than from injuries inflicted and received in the war. We believe and we've seen study after study show, that these dogs can literally save these soldiers lives."
She points out how connecting with a loving pet calms the nerves and seems to enhance well being. "The second I walked in here I thought I was going to have a stroke with stress and I swear to you, right now, this moment, petting these dogs, I feel calm--just relaxed. You know, everything is going to happen the way it's supposed to happen."
And Zilbert says trained therapy dogs can do a lot to help soldiers move past PTSD. She says having such dogs even help encourage military veterans to seek treatment they need. "There's no stigma to having a dog. And the dogs keep the soldiers from getting too isolated. The dogs keep the soldiers from feeling that they have to be too hyper vigilant at all times. The dogs will also help the soldiers enter into public areas without having the stress and anxiety that they would have had, had they not had that kind of therapy dog serving them," said Zilbert.
A wide range of art from Clementine Hunter prints to Eddie Morman, along with other items, are being auctioned at the People's Advocate "Fun-raiser" The event is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Zeus Restaurant at 409A Prien Lake Road across from the mall.