Help a vet. Save a pet.
Such is the mission of "Paws of War," a Guardians of Rescue program, and it was accomplished during Sunday's game between the Giants and 49ers at MetLife Stadium.
Continuing the NFL's "Salute to Service" campaign, the Giants organization welcomed Army veteran Miguel Torres, a Brooklyn native and a Giants fan, on the field for a special ceremony in between the first and second quarters. There, he was presented with a service dog named Stryker to assist him throughout his daily life. Cow Harbor Warriors sponsored the dog, which was trained through the rescue program.
"Many veterans of war suffer from PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," said US Army Corporal John Walis, who served in Afghanistan and spearheads the Paws of War Program. "It can have emotionally paralyzing effects. Daily living can become difficult and often be filled with feelings of paranoia and fear."
Torres, who is now medically retired, served from March of 2002 to August of 2006 and was deployed twice to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.
For his service, Torres has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Air Assault badge, and a Combat Infantry Badge. He now suffers from PTSD, migraines, short-term memory loss and spinal damage.
"Animals have a very therapeutic, calming effect on people," said Robert Misseri, founder of Guardians of Rescue. "Whether a trained therapy dog or a purring lap cat, the emotional connection can become a foundation of trust."
Guardians of Rescue matches pets, often left behind from war-torn areas or US kill shelters, by pairing them with military veterans who suffer from the emotional effects of war and seek the therapeutic and unconditional love of a companion animal.
All "Paws of War" PTSD dogs are certified as service dogs. Through their certification, they can travel in all public venues with their military veteran owner as protected through the Americans with Disabilities Act. All dogs are evaluated prior to training to qualify for the program, and each one is carefully matched up with the veteran in need.