Soldiers who fought battles bravely do struggle with battle-stress when they get back to normal civilian life. This battle lies inside their minds and known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They always feel on edge, emotions are numb and disconnected, and remain close to exploding and panicking. Sadly most fail to understand the traumatic events a soldier witnesses during a war. David Marlowe, specializing in stress-related mental disorders, studied veterans after the first Gulf War who reported that getting wounded hurt less than seeing friends and enemies get hurt.
The worst emotional experience was to witness friends dying. In every war, for every army, losing a friend is the most mentally scarring thing to happen, causing psychological breakdowns in the war zone and is a major obstacle to civilian re-adjustment later. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) presented the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act, as a simple bill with potentially life-saving effects on the lives of others. The bill cleverly named as PAWS was a $10 million pilot program, pairing post-9/11 veterans with severe PTSD, with reliable service dogs.
Percentage of war veterans with PTSD
DeSantis wrote that the threat to soldiers did not end after home return, as the tragic high rates of veteran suicides reveals, and all veterans needed to be honoured and cared for. Cole Lyle, a Marine with six years overseas service, and his service dog, Kaya, were major players inspiring the bill after returning from Afghanistan in 2011. Lyle’s post-deployment health assessment revealed he suffered from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Medication didn’t help him to get better and he thought they were exacerbating his symptoms. He was shocked when two close friends suffering from PTSD committed suicide and quit his medication after 18 months of treatment. Lyle sought alternative therapies and asked the VA about a service dog, but his request was denied and was told that an agency provided dogs in special cases, to vets with physical disability, like blindness, but not for PTSD. Fortunately, Lyle secured financial support from his family to get a German shepherd named Kaya and certified her through an accredited trainer. Kaya helped Lyle’s recovery who attends college and advocates for soldiers rights to fight back. The process actually started when Lyle was in Washington with Kaya when a senator asked him about his dog. He narrated his story to the senator, who asked if they could do something about this. Lyle’s simple reply was that as policymakers, they could take some initiatives.
Using Service Dogs
While sharing stories with a Senator, Lyle realized that service dogs to PTSD vets could be a practical solution. The senator didn’t support Lyle’s idea, he met other senators until DeSantis helped draft the bill. As per the bill, vets could receive service dogs from accredited organizations or private provider, with Veterans Affairs cover veterinary insurance for the animals. In his press release DeSantis said that thoughts of post-9/11 veterans suffer from PTSD and there is need to make treatment options available to them.