Charlie — Service
When the bullets were flying, there was no one more important than the person in front and behind you. We’d say, “I got your six,” which means we take care of each other and watch each other’s backs. Now that I’m a veteran, I no longer have my battle buddies to provide reinforcements. Instead. I have my service dog Charlie who watches over me. He’s my armor, my second in command, my battle buddy, my hero. I enlisted in the Air Force as a young girl of seventeen and became a combat photographer. On my third combat deployment with the Army infantry, I sustained a traumatic brain injury and cervical spine trauma from blast exposure. I tried very hard to stay in service, but my body was degenerating verses improving. Devastatingly, I was medically retired at the age of twenty-eight. Through fellow disabled veterans, I discovered the power of a service dog and applied for one from America’s VetDogs. After 2 years, I was paired with Charlie and my life has changed for the better. Not only does he offer help through several tasks such as counter balance, item retrieval, seizure support, hearing impairment support and nightmare interruption, but his very presence alerts people that I am a disabled veteran who needs assistance. He makes it okay to be vulnerable and embrace my new normal. He’s empowered me. He’s liberated me from myself. As far as service dogs go, he’s extraordinary. As far as battle buddies go, he’s the best I’ve ever had. Charlie is truly my hero.