How Freedom Dogs Put Me back in the Driver’s Seat.
By Tobin’s Combat Veteran Marine.
I guess that my love affair with the military started when I was young. I was a die-hard fan of GI Joe growing up and actually still am! Fast-forward 18 years and there I am sitting inside the cab of a 7-ton truck, M16 locked and loaded with my Kevlar and flak jacket on. About an hour earlier I had left my last will and testament on my mom’s answering machine. I was more nervous than I had ever been before because we were going to be the first ones “outside of the wire” in Kandahar in three years. The other guys in my unit really didn’t “get” me and so no one really had my back. In that moment, I needed someone to have my back more than ever.
So here I am, almost shaking from uncertainty and I thought, “well, I might as well say a prayer.” My wife, at the time, had bought me a small bulletproof bible with a metal plate in it. She had told me to keep it close to my heart. I unzipped this little bible and it fell open into my hands and there is was… the only verse I have ever since committed to memory.
Jeremiah 46: 28 “Fear not oh Jacob my servant”, declares the LORD. “I am with you. I will completely destroy all the nations where I scatter you, but I will not completely destroy you. I will correct you with justice. I won’t let you go entirely unpunished.”
After reading the verse, a calm came over me and I took a breath and said, “Okay” The verse turned out to be completely on point during that deployment.
During my second deployment in Iraq, things were different. It was there that I learned that when the Rules of Engagement were being set by those that weren’t in the fight, it typically ends up with you becoming the target! While I escaped what I considered major injuries from IEDs, I had witnessed first-hand the carnage they could unleash. It angered me when I saw a fellow Marine injured due to something that could have been prevented. My greatest regret was that on one mission I had forgotten about the open areas before some buildings just outside the gate where we had taken fire more than four years before. We took casualties and I have never let go of the four Marines whose deaths I felt like I could have prevented.
I have been very fortunate to be connected to Freedom Dogs whose mission is to help returning Combat Vets deal with PTSD. Working with my Freedom Dog and “battle buddy” Tobin I have been able to reintegrate and reconnect with other veterans and my family. By learning about training Tobin, I have learned a thought process that helps me find answers and bring closure to experiences that cause PTSD.
Today, Tobin is my constant companion and always has my back. I have started a specialized moving company and Tobin and I travel coast to coast. My other passion is golf and competing in the various “long drive” events around the country. Tobin is at my side and my constant ball caddy. I am looking forward to being at the upcoming Freedom Dogs Golf Tournament at Del Mar Country Club March 1st.
In so many ways, Freedom Dogs and Tobin have put me back in the driver’s seat of my life!