Have you ever thought of a great idea, only to do nothing about it? Why not? Today, Toby Mathis of Anderson Business Advisors talks to David of 1 Veteran Foundation, a non-profit group in southern Arizona that helps qualified veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) get a service dog for support.
- How did 1 Veteran Foundation develop? David’s bright idea when sitting on the couch and watching television; bought the name, but not enough money to do anything else
- Why not start it then? It takes money to start a non-profit organization; IRS requires about $400 to file for 501(c)(3) status
- How did one friend help start 1 Veteran Foundation? Donated $400 for a bookkeeper to file 501(c)(3) application
- How do many veterans deal with trauma and stress after serving in the military? More veterans kill themselves per year than die in combat
- How do service dogs (a.k.a. teammates) support veterans? David’s service dog, Manefa, helps him deal with nightmares, crowd control, and other issues related to PTSD
- Why there’s an epidemic of suicide among veterans? Military tries to alleviate transition by finding jobs, but not mental health help; pride prevents them from asking for help
- Are service dogs an all-in-one fix? No, but an extra life-saving tool to deal with PTSD
- What does it cost to train a PTSD service dog? About $30,000 to do basic obedience training and achieve Service Dog Certification
- What are service dog requirements? Healthy rescue dogs, usually 1-3 years old, at least 40 pounds, consider bond over breed, and complete doggie boot camp
- How long does it take to find and train each service dog? About 300 hours
- How do veterans request a service dog from 1 Veteran Foundation? Organization’s Website describes process to request a service dog
- Why is there a stigma with PTSD? People fear what they don’t understand
- Why do veterans name their service dog after a trauma? Turns negative into positive experience to provide comfort and take away pain to make progress against PTSD
- Want to sponsor a veteran who needs a service dog? Donate to 1 Veteran Foundation
Full Episode Transcript
Toby: This is Toby Mathis with the Anderson Business Advisors Podcast. Today, I have Dave Rafus with us. This is a really cool organization. This isn’t even one that I set up. David just happened to be in one of our classes and as we talked and we learned about him, I said, “Wow, this is really cool.” So, I hope you realize that it’s not just our clients we try to help. We try to help anybody.... Read Full Transcript
This is an interesting organization. I’m going to say it hopefully right, 1veteranfoundation.org. Is that right, Dave?
David: It is correct.
Toby: Let’s just dive into this. Dave, first off, welcome.
David: Thank you.
Toby: If you could explain to the listeners and the viewers out there what you do with the organization, how it came about?
David: It actually came about four years ago. In November will be our four-year mark. With my wife and I, we were sitting on the couch and we’re watching TV, then the name of 1veteran just popped into my head. I was like, “That would be a really cool name for an organization.” My wife said, “Well, I know you’re not going to stop thinking about it, so go buy the name.” I went online and I bought the name.
About six months later, a friend of mine and I were out riding our motorcycles and I started telling him out the idea of 1veteran and the concept of 1veteran, so he asked me why I wasn’t doing it. I said, “Because it takes money,” and that was something I didn’t have at the time. The IRS wanted $400 to start our (c)(3) and he goes, “Well, I have that,” and I said, “But I don’t,” and he says, “You do now,” and he gave me $400. Then he had his girlfriend, who was a bookkeeper, file our 501(c)(3) on Thanksgiving Day 2015.
Toby: Congratulations. Way to go.
David: Yeah. When she filed it, we got in back in seven days. I thought it’s going to be six months. We sat down and e discussed the options of what we wanted to do and we wanted to help out our local veterans network struggling in having problems. We thought, “Well, let’s see if we can help them financially and let’s throw in this thing for […] and see how that pick off, because my wife and I had gotten me a dog and find out that nobody in the Southern Arizona area, like Tucson in the south, trains service dogs for vets with PTSD.
After looking around for several months, we found a couple of organizations, but they were all over the country. They weren’t here. We decided to set up our foundation to train service dogs and help out vets with PTSD hopefully here in Southern Arizona.
Toby: Let’s stop right there. First off, I could see the flag in the background. You’re obviously look like marines.
David: Yes. I did seven years in the Marine Corps.
Toby: And the PTSD issue, some people are aware, but some people don’t realize is how horrific it is. You’re talking about service members taking their own lives when they come back. Is that […] focused?
David: One of the things we wanted to focus on was post-traumatic stress. Many members, when they come back from serving overseas or serving in the military, in high-stress situation, i.e. combat, when they get out, they no longer have their team and all of the trauma and stress that they went through that was in the back of their mind is now in the front of their mind and it’s taking over. When we started, we were losing 22 veterans a day to suicide, which is 8300 a year. We have more veterans killing themselves than they’re dying in combat.
Toby: People got to let that sink in. You’re talking about 8300 service members taking their lives per year.
David: Yeah and we’ve had around 5000 or so that have died in Afghanistan and in Iraq. If you look at it figure scale in Vietnam, we lost over 58,000. We’ve lost a substantial number of talented individuals that serve our country, but they’re […] on the line because they couldn’t get the help that they needed or wouldn’t accept the help that was there.
With us with our service dogs, what we do is we don’t really call them service dogs. Even though they’re tagged as service dogs, we give their teammate back because when you get out of the military, the adjustment period can be really, really rough.
Toby: By the way, I saw your dog. Is that a he or a she?
David: Manifa? Let me see if I can get her up here. This is Manifa.
Toby: I remember.
David: Yeah. She’s my service dog. She helps me with some of the stuff that I deal with, which are nightmares and crowd control, so to speak. If I go someplace where there’s a huge crowd, I’ll take her with me and she gives me my breathing room and my space so that I don’t get too enclosed in upon. But a lot of people will see her and then everybody wants to come and see her. I don’t exist, which is great.
What we do with our dogs is we trained approximately 18–20 dogs in 3½–4 years and with that, we haven’t had a single suicide at all.
Toby: I want to hear that again. How many have you done?
David: We have trained about 18–20 dogs in just under 4 years and we haven’t had a single suicide. We are down now to 20 veterans a day committing suicide, which is right around 7000-ish.
Toby: A step in the right direction, though.
David: Yeah, it’s about 7300 a year, so that saves us actually about 730 lives a year of veterans that aren’t taking their lives through the work of organizations like ours.
Toby: Is it because the veterans just don’t want to go get help? Don’t know how to get help? There’s no services available? It seems like an epidemic.
David: It is an epidemic. We’ve lost so many of our talented young individuals, but a lot of them when they get out, the military is trying to help alleviate the stress of this problem by creating what they call a TAP class which is a transitional assistance program.
The problem is, when they’re getting out nobody’s paying attention. They’ll sit in this class for a week and there are different stuff on how to get federal jobs, how to get state jobs, but were not really given the information on where to go to get the health things that they need.
The military then started getting people preregistered in the veteran administration before they get out. The guys […] doesn’t allow them to ask for help. Generally, what it does is it takes another veteran to get a hold of them, talk to them, and say, “Hey, you know what? […] going through a tough change,” because we used to work with veterans to help them find employment and they would bring me resumes that were five-star resumes, but they’d be written in military language and nobody understands that […].
You have somebody, “Oh, I’m a professionally trained E40 echo charlie,” and people are like, “Okay, what is that?” […] and they get turned down for job after job after job because they don’t know how to read their resumes or they’re embarrassed for having to ask for help. It triggers a lot of other things.
Night time for a lot of veterans is really hard because they’re totally alone. A lot of veterans will go into the trucking industry or something along that line because then they can work alone. They don’t have to rely on other people. If they have a bad day, they could go and climb in their truck, close the door, […] in their own world.
What we do with our dogs is we give them back that team concept. The dogs are trained to sense and understand when that veteran is having a bad day, and then they draw the attention to the dog […] where their mind is going. If, say, somebody has served in […] during all of that horrific stuff that was going on, their mind goes back there when they get really […]. The dogs can sense that there is a problem coming on and they’ll go out and they’ll try to play with them, they’ll pet them, they’ll paw at them, they’ll lick their face, and they keep their mind from going dark as much as possible and bring it back to something that’s happy, that the dog loves them, or a team mate […] care for them and help watch over […].
Toby: I’ve seen that, by the way. I just want to stop you because I know that service dog training, or those who aren’t familiar with it, $50,000 to train a dog?
David: For a PTSD service dog, when we first started we were just going to go to California and get one. It was $30,000 for a dog.
Toby: It’s very, very expensive.
David: Yes, and then we’re like, “Oh, let’s go to Florida and check it up.” $25,000 for a trained service dog for PTSD. My wife and I contacted one of the local trainers here whose father was in the military and his experience for service dogs was his father passed away, one of his buddies that came to the funeral had a trained rottweiler service dog. He thought that, that would be really cool for him to be able to get back to our local veterans and to help train service dogs.
He thought it was really unusual that I showed up about two weeks, three weeks after that funeral at his place of business and discuss working with him. He has given us a deeply discounted rate on training our dogs and we’ve had tremendous success.
We sat down and wrote our PTSD training program, they follow our programs, our guidelines, the way we do things, and since we have started, like I said, we’ve done about 18–20 service dogs for local veterans. We had some big success with it. We had one female veteran that was air force who did a lot of stuff I believe is their own […] TID. It’s their investigative group. She would go overseas and investigate these murders and go into all these horrific sites. It affected her so deeply that she almost lost her marriage.
I actually met her when I was teaching a class when I worked for the State of Arizona and we started talking. She asked if I could help her with her dog. I checked out her dog, his name was Tyson, he’s pretty comical, he ran for president in the last election on the dog picket. He went through our training program and since then, she has been able to save her marriage. Her and her husband are doing really, really well. They now live in Florida. Her husband is what they call roughnecks—they work on the oil rigs and the oil platforms—and now she works with individuals to help rescue dogs in Florida.
We have another dog that’s in Alabama with an army veteran. It’s the smallest dog we’ve ever trained. I wasn’t sure I would train it, but we knew the dog’s […]. They’re living in Alabama. He’s a scuba instructor now and helps […] scuba divers.
We have one dog and I call her the hero dog. Her name is Ruby, she’s a German shepherd. The person she went to has diabetes. One morning, […] asleep, her blood sugar bottomed out just […] was about to go into a diabetic coma and the dog kept pounding the side of the bed. She wouldn’t get up, so she jumped up on the bed and started licking her in the face until she got up, she sat up and almost passed out. When tested her sugar levels, she found out she needed insulin right away, and is alive today because the dog was able to get her woken up.
Toby: She was alone probably, right?
David: Yup. We have another veteran. He’s an amazing guy. He was a special forces medic. He did many tours overseas, came back, and was very heavily self-medicating with anything he could get a hold of. I met him, he was about to lose his family, he was about to lose his kids, everything. He was going to lose everything. We started working with him to find him a dog and we found a puppy that somebody had seen us on local television station and asked if we would be interested in it. We already had an older dog, so we thought […] puppy, it will probably […].
Since we’ve introduced this dog to him and the dog has gone through our training, he’s gone through our training, he was the very first dog we’ve ever had that’s scored 100 on our test.
Toby: German shepherd are just flipping smart.
David: This one here, he was a golden lab-pitbull mix. He’s a big old baby. The dog is just a big old super baby and since the two of them have started working together, he applied for nursing school and got accepted to three separate nursing schools since we started working with him.
Toby: How long does it take to train a dog?
David: It can vary. It can be as little as six months. Sometimes, a year to a year-and-a-half. It all depends on the dog. And more importantly, it depends on the veteran. If we have a veteran that’s very willing to put in the word as it does take work on their part, then we can get them through in six months.
The hardest part for our vets is if they don’t have a dog and we introduce them to a dog that’s gone through our training process, we then will let him have the dog for 30–60 days to be able to bond and to see if this is going to work. Sometimes, the bond just doesn’t happen and it […] people for us if more help the bond and […] because we use all rescue dogs.
We don’t have a breeding program, we don’t use a specific breed. We go to the animal rescues, we go to the animal shelter, and we start screening dogs. All of our dogs have to be generally between the ages of one and three years. We do make certain exceptions if we get a puppy that shows promise. We’ll pick a puppy, we let them live with the dog for up to a year with us keeping in contact with them to make sure they’re going to their counseling and stuff falling that lines, so that they can move forward.
All dogs have to be between 40 and 60 pounds or bigger. If you’re thrashing around at night because you’re having nightmares, […] because you push him off you. It’s harder to push a 40 pound dog off you and […] jump up on you to wake you up back from the dark side. We do it in that aspects with our dogs.
Toby: Wow, and during that six months, do you take the dog and are they coming to you? How are you doing the training?
David: What we’ll do with our training is we call it doggie boot camp or immersion training. Once they have their 30–60 days with their dog, during that time frame we make sure the dog is medically fit and sound, has all their shots, and is healthy enough to be a service dog because it takes a lot to be a service dog.
We then put them into, like I said, our boot camp or immersion training where they’re gone for 6–8 weeks as if you’re going to boot camp in the military. They’re updated once a week with photos and they’re giving a little bit of information about how the dog is doing, about how they’re coming along in their training, how they’re progressing.
Once I get notified by my […] dog is ready with their good K-9, their best obedience and with their specialized training, then we’ll introduce the veteran back to the dog in a public place and give the veteran about an hour to two hours worth of lessons to ensure that the veteran knows the commands to give, to know how to handle the dog, and how to move them forward. We then let the veteran and the dog go back home. They work together for about a month to two months and then they get another lesson. Then, we let them have some more time together and then we’ll test them out. All in all, we put up probably about […] hours into every dog.
Toby: How many hours?
David: About 300. Anywhere between 250–300. It just depends on the dog. If the dog learns quickly, it’s around the 250 mark. If they’re a little slower, it’s generally up around the 300 mark.
Toby: It’s a long process.
Toby: How did the veterans find you or do you go find them?
David: It’s a little bit of both. We’ve been around long enough now that we actually get referrals from the DA here in Tucson, where if a veteran that they’ve been working with has a need, they’ll refer them to our website. We want everybody to go to our website through the 1veteranfoundation.org and then click on the Request Service Dog tab. When they do that, there’s a form that they fill out. It comes to us via email. We will generally send them back saying, “Request has been received.” We’ll print it out, we’ll put it in our file, and as […] comes available, we pull the next one in line. We then contact the veteran, we will then sit down and have a one-on-one interview to see if the expectations are realistic.
Some people think that when you get a service dog that they’re going to just be the most perfect animal in the world. They’re still a dog. They’re still gonna act like a dog. They’re still going to have their good days and they’re going to have their bad days just like people do. So, people need to understand that.
Toby: You’ve got good dogs. I’ve been around yours.
David: Yeah. Manifa’s been a lifesaver for me. She was one of the main reasons we started doing this was because Manifa helped me tremendously and if she could help me, there had to be others that we can help. If we can pay it forward, we’re going to pay it forward.
One of the things we ask our veterans to do is, “He helped you. Now, go out and help two other veterans.” If everyone in my veterans goes out and helps two other veterans and, say we’ve done 20, now we’ve helped 60 because each one of them are going to go help two. And in each one of those that they help, go and help two.
This is a spider web that gets bigger and bigger, and being able to help spread the good. There’s so much negative connotation around PTSD, that people think that […] PTSD, you’re automatically crazy and […] safe. And just because they don’t understand it. I’ll be honest. It took me a while to understand it.
PTSD doesn’t make you crazy. It means you’re dealing with issues that most others don’t. You are carrying baggage that you’re unable to let go of. One of the things we do is with the dogs, we have them name their dog after something that was traumatic or a place that was traumatic for them, and every time you conjure that name, it brings a bad memory to light. What we do is by having them name the dog after something traumatic, and takes it from being really negative to a positive.
For the longest time I couldn’t say the name Manifa without getting teary-eyed or getting upset because when I was over to […] Desert Storm, one of the places I was there, I had a dog there and it was very difficult for me when I came back. All the other stuff that went on during Desert Storm, my escape was this dog I had over there named Manifa. Manifa wasn’t able to to come back stateside with me […].
I named my dog Manifa and it took me probably 4–6 months before I could say her name without getting some kind of a negative reaction from it. And now, when I think of Manifa, I think of this wonderful little furball that I got. She’s a pit mix, American bulldog mix and she’s one of the most loving, kind, caring dogs for me that I’ve had. When I have a bad day, she listens. She’ll come and put her head on my lap and I just do what I […]. She just listens, loves on me, and she just lets me know that, “Hey, you know what? You’re having a bad day, but I’m here for you.” And that’s all we do with our other dogs.
Toby: Have they done studies on the use of the service dogs? You actually had, it sounds like about 20 service members who reached out and say, “Hey, I’m having issues and I need help,” this seems to be very effective. You’re not the first one that I’ve heard this, by the way. This is why I’m very interested in your organization. Have they done studies on this and look at what it does to the people in crisis by having these service dogs?
David: According to the […], there is no conclusive evidence that would suggest that this is an all-in-one fix. I tell people this is not an all-in-one fix. This is another tool in the toolbox to help build a better house. With us, we do require that they go through counseling or receive professional help along with the service dog by their side or their teammate.
We are finding that guys that have been going through counseling and working with their service dogs, their medication that they’re receiving is being drawn back a little bit. Instead of taking, say 100 mg of Prozac, they’re 50 mg of Prozac, and they’re working only that or whatever medicine that they’re taking. There are some that will never be able to be off their medication. It’s a chemical imbalance that they have, but their service dog helps to alleviate the amount of medication that they take.
With me, personally? I was a pinball for 20 years, basically. After I got out, everybody keeps telling me there I have PTSD and I was like, “No, I don’t think […] are the ones that are crazy.” Then, I started working with dogs, training them for truck driving because I used to drive a truck for 18 years. I noticed that my stress levels […]. When we got Manifa, I would say probably the first six months was really difficult because everywhere I went, she went. Being in Arizona in the summertime, it’s really hard for the dogs because it’s 180 outside on the asphalt. It’s like Vegas, like the surface of the sun.
Toby: It’s the dry heat.
David: Yeah, it’s the dry heat, but it still will melt your toes.
Toby: So is an oven.
David: Yeah. Like I said, we’ve had really good luck with our vets. We had a few that didn’t make it through our program because they didn’t realize the amount of commitment that it does take when you have a service dog. When you take on a service dog, it’s taking on the responsibility of another life form, like a child or young adult, and you’re dealing with them having good days and you having good days, and them having bad days and you having bad days.
Generally, when I have a really bad day, Manifa will pick up on it and she’ll be by my side no matter where I go, which can be a little trouble sometimes when you have to use facilities and you don’t need her […]. Then, when we go out in public, you have a lot of people that, even though you have “do not pet” on the side of the vest, they apparently can’t read and they come straight at the dog.
Toby: They just can’t see the “not.” They just, “Oh, do pet.”
David: Yes. With Manifa, she was trained for me to back away from people. When people see her, they think she’s scared or that she’s terrified because she’s backing away or she’ll take her first five minutes […]. And they’re like, “Why is your dog shaking?” I said, “She shows what I feel.” For the first 5 or 10 minutes I’m walking somewhere that’s new, I’ll get milk or dairy sometimes, and inside I’m shaking and crazy, but on the outside I’m perfectly stoic. She’ll shake like crazy for the first 5 or 10 minutes and then she calms down to like, “What’s up?” She goes around and says hi to everyone.
Every service dog we have is different. We have one, actually, a Vietnam vet, is the most social dog I have ever met in my life because she thinks everybody was put on this earth for her. With this veteran, with the job that he had, every year they have a national convention and he’s never been able to go to it.
When he went to the national convention, he […] Ashley Monroe because he’s very formal with her. CEO of the company stood up and said, “We have a very special guest here,” and he goes, “I’d like to call up Miss Ashley Monroe.” We’ve got pictures of him and her strutting across the center of the forum in front of everybody. The CEO announced that they were starting a national service dog program for their company so that they would intentionally go out and hire veterans with service dogs to be able to work at the company, all because of what we do with Ashley and help that veteran out.
We’ve been really lucky in the aspects that we’ve had a much wider […] than we expected. We’ve had some really good luck with the veterans that we’ve had. We had a few that went really deep on the dark side and we’ve been able to get them back into the gray zone. Were working with them to get them back into the light in that aspect.
Toby: That’s amazing.
David: Well, one of these guys, like I said, are amazing individuals, but because of all the negative stuff that’s putting out on the news and the TV about PTSD, people have a tendency to shy away from them, or because they’ve learned how to have to be a bully, […] instead of just saying, “You know what? I’m having a bad day. Can you give me some […]?” They show they learned and people think that because you have PTSD, you’re a jerk, […] or whatever. It’s really sad because they’re missing out on a lot of […].
Toby: I think people have a lot of fear of what they don’t understand. Here in Vegas we have the monsoons and we have veterans where the eyes look like saucers. As soon as that thunder starts, it’s again, if you don’t understand it, you’re scared of it. We have that here. It’s like so and so is shaking and that’s because they’re dealing with some issues right now. It’s just being understanding about it, but I could see how having a service dog under those circumstances could make a huge impact.
How many folks do you have on your waiting list right now, if you don’t mind me asking?
David: Right now, we just have an influx and we’re somewhere between four and six right now that are waiting. We knock the list down quite a bit over the past year. We actually have a dog in training right now for a Vietnam veteran. He named his dog Sergeant Major, which cracks me up because I guess Sergeant Major had a negative impact on each other. We’ve got another dog named Valkyrie that waiting to go into training. As soon as the next slot opens up, Valkyrie will go into training.
It’s not funny when you think about it, but I asked him, “Why did you name your dog Valkyrie?” I have them explain why they name their dog what they named them. When he was in the military, his job was to pick the dead for intelligence. When people are killed in combat, they will sometimes have scraps of paper on them or they will have intel on them. He was on intelligence, so his job was to more or less pick the dead.
In the Norse religion, a Valkyrie is a winged warrior that comes down and gathers the dead and takes them to Valhalla. He named his dog Valkyrie because it helps him to deal with the fact of what it was he has to do for his job to move forward, to make sure none of the other men who got hurt and his […].
Toby: Wow, I can’t imagine. Oh my goodness.
David: So we have a dog named Valkyrie and that was another one of our puppies that we had. She’s a black lab […] that a breeder had actually donated to us for this specific veteran. That veteran was an amazing guy. He’s really, really struggling with daily life, but since Valkyrie has come into the picture, he’s been able to be a better father. His wife said that he’s actually sleeping in bed now instead of on the floor under a cupboard or on a couch because he would have such horrific nightmares that he would become very violent in his sleep and she could get elbowed by acting it […] from thrashing around.
He’s made progress within probably two weeks of us introducing Valkyrie to him. He went from sleeping on the floor to sleeping on the couch. For some people, that’s no big deal. For them, it’s huge. It was about two months after that, he moved into the bedroom and he was sleeping on the floor by the bed with Valkyrie by his side. We had them put up a small dog pallet or a dog bed by their bed. This way, when they’re sleeping in bed, the dog is right by their side.
Like with mine, with Manifa at night, if I’m having a bad day, she’ll generally crawl up and […] with me for about 10 or 15 minutes […] I watch TV until I go to sleep and […] morning, I’ll wake up and she’s gone over to my wife’s side of the bed curled up by her cheek because my wife is […] shorter and has more room. She’s smart because I’m 6 feet 1 inch and 250 pounds and my wife is 5 feet 2 inches and about 120 pounds. There’s a significant space difference in the bed on my wife’s side versus my side.
Like I said, we have them name their dogs after something that draws a traumatic image to their brain and then it shifts that from a traumatic image to a positive image. We had pretty good luck in that aspect.
Toby: You’re looking for more for veterans and you’re looking for the dogs to place with them. So, you’re looking for both?
David: Yes. Well, being now, we’re playing catch-up again. We do this periodically where we’ll get hit, like we’ve been hit pretty lately where we would get three or four or five and we have to put them on a waiting list because we have to wait for the money to come in. Like I said, if we go to California, it’s […]. We’re able to train a dog for $2500.
Toby: All right. First off, you should understand, our audience are rock stars, the people that listen to these. I already know a ton of them. They’re some of the most giving people out there. I have no doubt that if you need sponsors for four or five veterans, you’re going to have people reach out.
David: That would be awesome.
Toby: It’s about $2500 per veteran to get this done?
David: Yes. We have nine people on my board and we’re all volunteers. None of us draw a paycheck. Everybody does this out of the goodness of their heart. Our big time goal is we want to be able to raise enough money to buy a property that I can put a kennel and a training yard on, and some office space. Then, I want to be able to go and rescue, say, half a dozen dogs at a time, have my trainers work with them, get them to about 75%–80% of their training level, bring the veteran in, introduce them to their dog, and then have the veteran, the dog, and my trainers work together for the last 20%–25% of their training. When they graduate, the dog is theirs for free. We don’t charge our veterans for the dogs.
Toby: Right. So, the veterans not out-of-pocket, you guys aren’t drawing money, 100% of the money is going to the end result, which is to pair up a veteran with a teammate for the benefit of that veteran and society as a whole. Frankly, we left these folks behind and it is something that I still remember when PTSD was not something that was a diagnosis.
David: No. It’s been called shell shock, soldier’s heart. It’s been called many, many different things. The nearest manifestation of that is PTSD. Like I said, we’re looking to do is if we can find donors that are willing to help us to buy the property, build the property, and stuff like that.
We recently had to expand and I had something on somebody as my operations director, that they call […] stuff because it was becoming very overwhelming for me. So, he’s stepping in and he’s going to be reviewing and vetting the veterans in […] stuff because we do have a Facebook page, we have a web page. We can be reached through either of them.
Toby: I’m going to post all of your contacts online. As a wish list, are you looking for folks that have property in Tucson? Or would you be willing to work with anybody, anywhere?
David: The property we want to be in the Tucson-Marana area. I have been in Marana, Arizona and there is some property that I’ve been eyeing, but I don’t know if they’re willing to sell it and I haven’t really approached them on that aspect because we don’t have money to buy it. One of the things we really wanted to do is have a property where the veteran can stay overnight, can stay there for a week if need be or two weeks, however long we can get them to stay there.
Our big goal is to be able to help veterans all over the country, have them fly in to Tucson, pick them up, take them out to our buildings and our training area, let them […], get them into counseling, have little one-on-one groups.
I found that being in a group with other veterans, they’ll talk about things they would never talk about with other people. By putting them in a situation where a veteran will call BS on another veteran in a heartbeat. […] for and they know if somebody’s making something up or if they’re actually reliving something. If they’re reliving something, then they can relate to it.
When you talk to a civilian that doesn’t understand, and you tell them, “Hey, I did this and I did that,” all of a sudden you’re being judged. Nobody wants to be judged, especially […] happen in combat that people would never think of and […], but if you’re talking with another combat veteran, he gets it because he’s been there.
You live in Vietnam, I live in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Desert Storm, or whatever it is, while they’re all different areas in the world, you got that unity of a shared experience. Whether it’s combat in Vietnam, combat in Desert Storm, or combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, you get that horrible things happen and you don’t really pass judgment. You may say, “Hey, dude. All right, I get it. You went through hell, but that’s BS,” or, “Hey, man I get it. I’ve been there. I understand completely.”
Veterans, over time, their memory of a certain thing can distort and it can become far worse in their minds than it actually was or it will become far less in their mind than it actually was. By having somebody that has a shared experience or a similar experience, they got somebody that can understand and sympathize with them or empathize with them […] battle’s horrible. It’s, “I understand, man. I get the shakes, too.”
For me, crowds really trigger my heightened awareness and I get hyper-vigilant. Another guy might be, “When I hear a baby cry, I get hypervigilant.” Some people are very tone-sensitive or frequency-sensitive, or it’s visually sensitive or stuff in that line. Somebody maybe driving down the road in a white pick-up truck maybe coming at them, and they just freeze up because when they’re in Iraq they were going down the road in a white pick-up truck driving by them and it blew up. So, while at the time they’re like, “Wow, that was horrible,” and you go forward and they don’t think about it, but years later every time they see a white pick-up truck, in their mind that part blew up.
We try to help them to get the help that they need and service dogs come into play when the human body goes into depression and anxiety. PTSD-type moments there, the body produce different chemicals smells. Dogs are capable of smelling 100,000 different smells. So, when the dog smells the hormone change or the pheromone change, the dog then goes into work and will draw their attention to the dog, whether it’s coming up and putting their head on their lap. Something as simple as petting a dog can calm him down. It can lower their blood pressure, lower their anxiety levels, or their depression levels, just something as simple as petting a dog.
Toby: Yes, it doesn’t take much, but it takes a lot of effort to do that “doesn’t take much.” You got to actually put them in that scenario so you have somebody watch them. First off, I want to say thank you for your service. You’d be missed if I didn’t do that, I’m sure, on behalf of myself and the audience. Number two is I’m sure there’s going to be people of groups that hopefully want to help and want to help you sponsor. That’s the way I would do it is just sponsor a veteran with a dog.
David: Yeah. If we could get somebody to sponsor a veteran, […].
Toby: And get together with your friends. Make it a group, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be, “I’m going to cut a check.” There’s lots of ways to help, I’m sure, but the fact of the matter is that there are going to be expenses. I’ve worked with organizations where they built houses for the poor and a lot of people would just say, “I’m going to sponsor a house,” or a group would say, “We’re going to build a house. We’re going to sponsor one.” It doesn’t take a ton. In fact, somebody has just, “Hey, if something may have been giving to another organization, maybe your church is in this pretty right now, but you’re helping out a veteran, so maybe divert some of those funds.”
I’m just going to do that for you, Dave. I’m just going to say that it’s every little bit. Thank you for what you’re doing. For the folks out there, it’s 1veteranfoundation.org to go in there. I just want to say thanks for your service, thanks for your time, thanks for coming on, because I know this probably isn’t the most fun thing for you.
David: Well, no. I’ve never done a podcast before, so this is all really new to me and this actually been really enjoyable. Being able to get our message out, all the people that listen to your podcast, it’s huge for us. If any of your listeners are willing to donate to us, if you go to our webpage at 1veteranfoundation.org, we actually have a donation button on there. If somebody wants to sponsor a dog or sponsor multiple dogs, it costs us about $2500 per dog and just know that every dollar you donate will help us to help another veteran get back into the real world.
Toby: And then what if there’s organizations out there. Since we work for a lot of the veteran’s organizations, a lot of them are trying different means of accomplishing the same goal, would they also be able to contact you through 1 Veteran Foundation or is there contact information for you that you want to give out?
David: Yeah. They can email me or […]. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. That is my email, that comes directly to me, so I’m able to respond back. I generally respond back within 24–48 hours, depending upon what the work schedule is because I do have to work. We’re able to get information out to them and get them a little bit more information if they just email me directly.
Toby: Dave, I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on today.
David: Thank you.