The Department of Defense has indicated that over 7,300 veterans commit suicide yearly. Many of those suffered from PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), from Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and/or challenges resulting from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). These emotional issues created by service related trauma impact the families of veterans including their spouse and children.
What Our Turn To Serve does: Since 2009, we’ve helped veterans overcome PTSD, MST, and/or TBI, as a service to them and their families.
How we do it: We help disabled veterans get treatment from highly trained service dogs to dramatically improve their quality of life.
Who we are: Our Turn to Serve is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit headquartered in Fort Wayne. Our all-volunteer Board of Directors is passionate about helping disabled veterans who have served our nation.
Where we serve: The 10 county area of Northeast Indiana.
We believe that as a community, it is Our Turn to Serve veteran heroes who bravely risked their health and well-being, and sacrificed time away from their families for our country.
There are an estimated 3,000 veterans in our 10 county area who have a disability rating of 50% or greater resulting from PTSD, MST, and/or TBI.
These are serious mental health issues that face our region, and it’s a tragedy.
Disabled Veteran Success Stories
Veteran Steve has said that he doesn’t think he would be alive if it weren’t for the help he received from his service dog “Lady.”
Another veteran, Charles, says that when he is in a social setting and experiences anxiety, “Spirit” puts a paw on him as if to say, “I’m here, and it’s going to be OK.”
Veteran Tom was told that he could not return to a local retail store because of repeated outbursts resulting from his concern when people would approach him from behind in a check out line. After getting his service dog, the store recognized the positive changes brought about by Tom’s dog and volunteered their store for use for future service dog training.
How do you select the veterans you serve?
Veterans who apply for assistance from Our Turn to Serve are referred by the Fort Wayne and Marion Veteran’s Administration. Those veterans who are eligible for assistance have been assigned a disability rating and are determined to be individuals who would most benefit by having a service dog to assist in their lives.
What does it cost to train a service dog?
The average cost for training a service dog is $10,000. All costs associated with
training including initial vet costs, harnesses, and costs to secure the dog are borne by Our Turn to Serve. The veteran is responsible for the on-going expense of maintaining
a healthy dog.
Today, we have seven (7) veterans who have applied for assistance and
estimate that there will be somewhere between ten (10) and fifteen (15) additional
veterans that will be applying for help during the course of 2021.
Can service dogs really help these disabled veterans?
Fortunately, science is learning more about the symptoms of PTSD, MST, and TBI and are developing treatment methods to deal with the symptoms. One of those complimentary treatments is the use of service dogs.
Service dogs are trained to recognize the onset of an “emotional event” brought on by social anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, and paranoia. Once a service dog recognizes the onset of an emotional event, they are trained to give the veteran a signal. This cues the veteran to use coping skills that they learn with their VA Counselor. Service dogs can also be taught to retrieve medications, turn on lights when a veteran is experiencing a nightmare, and provide steadiness when a veteran has mobility issues.
Science has shown that in the proper circumstance a dog can cause a person to secrete oxytocin which is the “feel good hormone” that our brain releases. This “feel good” is magnified once the veteran and their service dog become a pair.
The service dog winds up being the “battle buddy” to the veteran and the trust relationship they develop creates a strong bond that further assists the veteran in dealing with anxiety.
Most of the dogs trained by Our Turn to Serve, have come from local shelters. We take “homeless” dogs and provide them with a strong purpose. We’ve discovered that the bond created between a veteran and a shelter dog becomes uniquely strong.
The training of a service dog generally takes a full year and it requires both the veteran and the dog to go through numerous classes to achieve the end result.