Frank Grillo submitted these photos and story about the dog run being installed at the PTSD clinic at the Batavia VA.
I know how important the small things are.
I know when your scraping and clawing and fighting to regain your life that every advantage can mean the difference between life and death.
When I came home I never slept. I watched out the windows, I patrolled my home. I gained over 100 pounds and began to fail at school and life. What brought me back? My dog.
Reba watched out the windows. Reba listened for sounds so I didn't have to. Her hearing was better; she constantly stared out the window and when I said "Reba, Whats That?" she would barrel from window to window on high alert.
When I arrived at the PTSD clinic I was immediately greeted like a criminal. Breathalyzers and urinalysis as well as a search of my belongings. The windows would only open four inches because someone from Texas jumped out of his window and because it was early spring the heaters were still on bringing my room to a not so comfy 90+ degrees.
The program was being run by a woman who did not know how to balance what was best for the vet against the regulations.
This was a colossal mess but I did three tours in Iraq and I could handle all the above.
I lasted less than one day.
I didn't have my dog.
Fast forward three years. I've given up on almost all of my volunteering. Too many fake programs cashing in on veterans.
I did keep on, however, keep up with the VA Veterans Advisors Council for two reasons:
- because my friend Patrick brought me in;
- and because I believe in the Director Brian Stiller, who is himself a Navy veteran.
For almost a year we brought the fight to allow service dogs into the PTSD program and thanks to a language loophole and Brian's willingness to do the right thing, to act on principal FOR the veteran in spite of the ridiculous bureaucracy, and we prevailed.
A veteran who found it too tough to stay in the program without his service dog eventually returned to Batavia to complete the program, and to his credit he pioneered the possibility of service dogs at the residential treatment program.
Next we asked, "What can we do to make this permanent?" and Director Stiller responded, "We need a place to let the run off vest."
Immediately I reached out to my brothers at the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 19-6 in Batavia.
We raised the funding and created the fenced-in pen you see in this picture. Yesterday, we returned to build a shelter where the combat veteran can sit in case he or she cannot stand. A place the veteran can relax out of the elements while his or her most loyal companion can run and play and unwind.
These dogs are easing the burden and saving the lives of veterans every day just as my Reba did for me. It is my privlidge and our chapter's honor to make that kind of advantage a possibility for our fellow combat veterans.
God bless America.