David is sore most days. It’s his back and his hands, mostly, but to be honest, it’s all the joints. He’s deaf in one ear, blind in one eye, and walks with a cane. He’s 64 and has arthritis most everywhere you can have it. But there’s some pain that age doesn’t inflict. Terrible thoughts, the stuff of bad dreams. For him they’re memories, and all too real.
For some veterans struggling with the lingering wounds from their military service, they’ve found support and companionship in man’s best friend. While service dogs come in many shapes, sizes, and perform different roles depending on their handler’s needs, there is a growing number of groups training service dogs to assist military veterans.
When people find out that I used to be an Army combat medic, they tend to say something like, “So if I get hurt you can fix me, right?” And my response, usually delivered with a touch of dark humor, is always something to the effect of, “No fucking way.”
While medical research into traumatic brain injuries is not new, our ability to identify and subsequently treat them, has leapt forward in the last decade and a half, owed in large part to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.