When I was little, I used to beg my dad to tell me stories about his experiences in Vietnam. Of course, he gave me a watered-down version of the real events that took place, but I remember listening to him talk, thinking he was an honest to god super hero. The pride, the adoration, the respect I had for him, and his fellow soldiers, has only grown over the years – even more so now that I know some of the real details of what he had to go through as an 18-year-old boy in the middle of a war.
One of the things I remember most was hearing about how hard it was to come home, to integrate back into civilian life, deal with mundane reality vs. what was his reality for 2 years, and how painful it was for people to move on and continue living. Even at that young age, it bothered me that no one seemed to help after the war was over. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something that positively helped people like my dad – soldiers – to show that all they went through wasn’t in vain. Through the years, I’ve supported various military service organizations, charities and events like Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, VFW, The Wounded Warrior Project, and the USO. Even in the days of eating nothing but Ramen and crackers, I still found ways to help.
Flash forward a few years, and here I am, writing for the VA Unit of Quicken Loans, helping veterans and their families get VA loans. Every day I get to contribute to the lives of veterans and active duty service members, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I do. So when I read the article my teammate Joel wrote about Ryan Newman and the Ryan Newman Foundation jumping in to save the life of a dog adopted by a soldier while in Afghanistan, I immediately thought of my friend Joe Petre and his wife, Jennifer, who contribute to the lives of veterans every day as well. Together, Joe and Jennifer have started an organization called Stiggy’s Dogs. Stiggy’s Dogs was started as a way to honor their nephew HM3 Benjamin Phillip “Doc Stiggy” Castiglione who “gave his life working as a Corpsman in Helmand Province, Southern Afghanistan.”
Stiggy’s Dogs helps support veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury by pairing a service member with a psychiatric service dog. Their dogs are all rescued shelter dogs that are trained specifically for each veteran. According to Jennifer and Joe, “by uniting these military heroes and our dogs, we are resucing one to rescue another.”
What’s even more amazing about this, aside from the fact that each dog is trained to meet the specific needs and challenges of their veteran best friend, is that all of the service dogs are trained and deployed at no cost to the veteran whatsoever, and each veteran/dog pairing gets a lifetime of continual training.
This is a great organization that not only helps the veterans who need our continual love and support, but it helps save the lives of those dogs living in shelters.
Please check out Stiggy’s Dogs and help support our troops after they come home.