By TXMMA Staff // Mike Calimbas
DAWG Foundation aims to help vets combat PTSD; First event planned for this Saturday Nov. 8th
HOUSTON, TX – According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about 7-8% of our population will have PTSD at some point in their lives (source). The risk of PTSD is even higher in veterans. ‘When you are in the military, you may see combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. You may have been shot at, seen a buddy get shot, or seen death. These types of events can lead to PTSD.”
Statistics from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) place the number at 11-20% of returning veterans suffering from PTSD. For Operation Desert Storm (Gulf War) it was 12% and around 30% for those that served in Vietnam. And these are just the reported cases.
The US Military is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world with over 160,000 active duty personnel serving outside the US and an additional 110,000 deployed in various contingency operations. As of last December (2013) there were 1,369,532 active duty members in the US Armed Forces with an added 850,880 serving in the reserves.
As for the MMA Community, statistics regarding the number of veterans participating in the sport vary but one thing for sure is that there is a considerable amount of ex and current military member within our community. One of them in particular, USMC Corporal Jeremy Mahon (with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Weapons Company) recognizes the issue and wants to make a difference through a new charity, the DAWG Foundation. As an Iraqi war vet and scout/navigator with his battalion, Mahon has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like living with PTSD:
“I have lost 10 friends to suicide from PTSD and know many more who suffer from it. I have been battling it myself since 2003. I want to help all of my combat brothers so that we can live long and enjoy our lives and our families.”
We spoke further with Jeremy Mahon to discuss PTSD and what the DAWG Foundation is aiming to do to help his fellow vets:
Let’s start off by talking about PTSD. How would you explain PTSD to a layman?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it is commonly known, develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
PTSD symptoms can appear at any time, with varying severity. Flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts can be commonplace. In extreme cases, the veteran may become emotionally numb, anti-social, or even ‘relive’ the dangerous situation(s) that is/are causing the distress. The ability to handle these situations can be difficult.
Imagine never feeling secure, and always on edge. Like you know something is about to happen, and you are ready for it, but nothing happens. That is how we feel in a restaurant, at the mall, or even driving in the car to work. When you sleep, you keep going through scenarios in your head that give you nightmares. You see, with vivid clarity, things that would shake your sanity. You start to pull away from your loved ones, and retreat into a mental and emotional shell that you think protects you, but doesn’t.
Tell us a little bit about the Dawg Foundation. How will the organization help vets with PTSD?
DAWG Foundation is a 501(c)3 (pending) not-for-profit charity providing service and emotional support dogs for US military veterans battling combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Based out of Houston, TX, the Foundation is staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers with a diverse background (military veterans, expert canine trainers, Emergency Services personnel, and more) working together to support our brothers and sisters who, while in uniform, developed wounds that the eye cannot see.
The gist of what we do is this; the DAWG Foundation identifies and trains dogs that are found suitable for Service/Emotional Support work, and pairs them up with veterans in our system. This is all done at NO COST to the veteran. The Foundation survives solely on the financial support of our donors and partners. Each service dog costs around $30,000.00 to obtain, train, board, feed, and provide continuing care. We don’t just ‘fire and forget’ with these dogs; we will be actively involved in the lives of both the dog and the veteran for a long time after they graduate our program.
Let me start out by dispelling a myth that seems to be going around: Service and Emotional Support Dogs are NOT “miracle cures”. The dogs that the Foundation trains and provides for our veterans provide a tremendous positive emotional impact not only on the veteran, but on his family, as well. We have professional canine trainers with decades of experience, and more national titles than you could shake a stick at, and they do their best to pair up intelligent, steady dogs with the veterans in our program.
Now there’s an event coming up this Saturday. What can you tell us about it?
DAWG Foundation of Houston, TX will be hosting a day-long festival to raise awareness of combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the role of the service/emotional support dog in the lives of our brave veterans battling this condition.
On Saturday, November 8th, 2014 (10am-10pm), local pet groomer/trainer Barks 5th Avenue (10620 FM 1960 West Houston, TX 77070-near the corner of 1960/Jones Rd) will play host to this festival, bringing our community together in support of our local military veterans who fight a daily battle against PTSD.
Karbach Brewery, a fantastic local brewery, partnered with us and donated beer for the event, and Barks 5th Avenue, the grooming and training facility we utilize for training the dogs, has graciously allowed us to use their location for the event. We have live bands, a chili cook off, MMA sparring, vendors, exhibitors, bouncy houses for the kids, a USMC birthday cake, and so much more. Its going to be a lot of fun, but we still want to focus on the main objective of the Day; to raise community awareness of PTSD and the role of the service dog in helping those who struggle with it.
How can people become involved?
We are always looking for folks who are willing to help. Simply stop by our website and fill out the volunteer form. If you are willing to help us financially or with donated items/material, we would love to talk to you. Again, stop by www.dawgfoundation.com and hit us up! Our veterans need all the help we can get.
Any message for fellow vets out there that might want to link up with Dawg of could get some help out of it?
Do not hesitate to contact us, or SOMEBODY. You are not alone. We stand by our brothers, and will help any way we can. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to helps out. Reach out, we are here to help. There is no judgment, no dishonor in seeking help from your fellow veterans. Don’t go it alone. We will walk this path with you.