PONTE VEDRA, Fla. – Seven years after serving its first class of veterans, K9s for Warriors reached a major milestone. They held a graduation ceremony for its 500th Service Dog Team on Thursday.
The Ponte Vedra-based organization helps veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder to manage their symptoms with the help of highly-trained service dogs.
New graduate Kendra Storm served in the army for 26 years and said her new dog, "Tuffie," will give her more independence.
"Like a sense of freedom, comfort and security. I don't have to worry about other people always being with me," Storm said.
Every dog that graduated from the program has also been given a new 'leash' on life. The organization said 90 percent of the dogs were rescued from high-kill shelters or from owners who couldn't care for them properly.
K9s For Warriors is the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or military sexual trauma (MST) as a result of military service post-9/11.
The service dog program is unique and offers an innovative approach to recovering from the invisible wounds of war. Two lives are transformed with each pairing. The veteran reduces his/her risk of suicide while the rescue dog receives a newfound purpose.