Written for the Crockett Foundation by Diane Baren – July 2017
After active duty, if a US Military Veteran becomes classified as Disabled Veteran by the Veterans Administration there are limitations on receiving payment for work they might perform from that point forward. While a Veteran might be classified as 80% or 100% disabled the way this plays out in their life may leave them with time and a strong desire to perform work and to contribute as an active member of society.
Some might call this work. Some of it could be for pay while some of it might be on a volunteer basis: and that will be impacted by those income limitations of the VA classification.
What can a Veteran do to contribute meaningfully to their community and enjoy doing so, without getting paid for their time?
While there are perhaps millions of ways a person could volunteer for various organizations—or just help out a friend down the road—a Veteran might want to spend his or her energy on something that touches them in their soul. They had soul connections while on active duty and that can be sorely missed as a Veteran.
To maintain combat readiness and to actually be in combat the human body goes through extremes that are, for the most part, beyond what a Veteran will experience after active duty.
Civilian life pales in comparison to being in the military.
In terms of physical risk taking there are recreational things a person can enjoy such as repelling down cliffs, downhill skiing, and even ninja warrior competitions.
[ Don’t know the difference between common Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Read about it here]
It may only be those extreme sports that mimic the extreme feelings of the experiences of being on active duty. But a Veteran may not be presently in the physical condition to pursue extreme sports – and they may have no interest in that either.
While the physical demands of active duty may be too rigorous for life as a Veteran who is disabled, Veterans may be able to achieve a similar level of emotional charge and spiritual reward in civilian life.
If a Veteran with PTSD can contribute to their community in ways that affect themselves deeply in their soul—as well as individuals who they work with–they may feel a sense of purpose that is akin to their contributions while in combat. But, what kind of work could be satisfying to someone after combat where every moment they were responsible for the life of their brothers in arms?
The action involved in training a dog, for any trick or task, can help to pull a Veteran out of depression and forge valuable connections with other living creatures.
Training a dog to be an emotional support companion or an official service dog with a job can impact the trainer’s soul. Often times the dog is from a shelter and is clearly bright and sociable but there remains a language barrier between human and canine that must be crossed.
When a Veteran with PTSD has the opportunity to train their own service dog several good things take place for the Veteran. This work can get the Veteran to physically move despite chronic pain that he might succumb to without having a job at hand. Training a dog requires walking, which gets blood flowing through the body and lifts spirits as well.
Being the trainer means the Veteran is responsible for teaching language to the dog—ensuring they work within a trusting and loving relationship where the dog wants to learn and is rewarded for learning.
The trainer is opening up that dog’s world by teaching them to understand human beings, and by teaching them what to do to communicate with people in a way that will bring the dog rewards via a pet on the head or a verbal praise or a tasty morsel treat. The Veteran dog trainer creates an emotional connection between their two souls, by becoming the dog’s trainer, teacher, and spiritual guide all in one.
Across America there are 501c3 non-profit organizations helping Veterans learn to train their own dogs. These organizations actively affect the lives of Veterans by giving them new skills and new relationships. Your donations makes a difference to these Veterans.
The Crockett Foundation helps fund the best Veterans charities out there, who are providing Service Dogs to Veterans with PTSD and facilitating therapeutic recovery programs. You may read about their mission and donate to help improve the lives of Veterans regaining joy in life while living with mental illness such as PTSD.