GILBERT, SC (WIS) - Students at Gilbert High School are using a senior community service project to support veterans battling with PTSD.
Their plan is to raise enough money to buy and train service dogs for local vets dealing with PTSD. They're working with the group Service Dogs for Vets, a group that has been very helpful to vets in the Midlands.
James Moore, of Swansea, served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"I deployed out of there to Ramadi, Iraq in '08. I re-enlisted for another four years in Iraq. From there, I went to Korea twice, and I deployed to Afghanistan."
But after an honorable discharge, James says returning home was a big adjustment.
"I stopped some of the things that I like to do, like work out. I kind of just stayed at home [and I] was depressed," Moore said.
He was later diagnosed with PTSD and after a bad reaction to the antidepressants prescribed by the VA.
"I kind of like got on Google and just started searching other things to help with PTSD and I came across service dogs," Moore said.
He'd already had his black lab, Boss, for several years and was paired with Bill Brightman, founder of Service Dogs for Vets, to begin training.
"It has helped us so much. I'm able to do things with my family again. I'm able to actually coach baseball and softball again," Moore said.
Sports are something he's able to do with his children and his service dog, Boss, of course.
Moore wanted to share his success story, speaking with seniors at Gilbert High School. It was part of the inspiration for the students' upcoming community service project.
"Why not choose veterans? They sacrifice their time. They sacrifice themselves. They sacrifice their family. They miss holidays. They don't get to take days off like we do," Gilbert High School senior Anslee Snelling said.
And after hearing about Moore and Boss, the students would like to donate peace of mind to more of our vets.
"Having Boss actually really like impacted his life and he was able to go from having to stay at home, staying in the car to being able to show emotions again and that really is what we wanted to do," Snelling said. "It really means a lot to us to know that we can change somebody's life just by a dog."
"I think it's amazing. I know where I was at a bad place as just a person and I know that 22 veterans a day, commit suicide, due to them not being able to handle being back in the civilian world and I love to go talk about it because if I could just save one of those veterans through a dog, that would be awesome," Moore said.
He says life still has its challenges, but with Boss, Moore says he knows he'll survive life as a veteran.
"Having PTSD, you're always going to live with it. I'm always going to have it. It's not about getting rid of it. It's about learning to how to live with it…. And having Boss, I've learned how to manage it."
If you would like to make a donation to help seniors at Gilbert High School provide trained service dogs to local vets with PTSD, just write out a check to Gilbert High School 840 Main St. Gilbert, SC.