9/11 rescuer and Iraq war veteran combats loneliness with feline battle buddy

When the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11, Steven left his home in Chicago to join the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero for three weeks, an experience that inspired him to enlist in the Army. But it was a four-legged, feline battle buddy that helped him combat the loneliness of his post-military life. While in the Army, Steven served as a Blackhawk crew chief for six years, and flew more than 1,000 hours over Iraq over the course of two deployments. Despite being twice deployed, his most memorable military experience occurred stateside. Following the 2010 mass shooting at Fort Hood, the helo chief was selected to fly the Secret Service Counter Assault Team over President Obama when the Commander in Chief visited shooting victims on base. Steven and Simon Before his service in the military, Steven enjoyed a career as a firefighter and paramedic. The Army veteran returned home following his tours of duty and enrolled full-time as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he hopes to attend their medical school after graduation.
In search of a four-legged battle buddy
Having enjoyed the company of his Army buddies for a decade, Steven sometimes felt lonely living in Chicago; he decided to adopt a pet to make sure he had a friend to come home to at the end of the day.
“I wanted a companion that would allow for my place to feel less empty when I was the only one home.”
Steven found that companion at Chicago’s Anti-Cruelty Society in June 2012, when he honorably adopted Simon, a three year-old tabby cat. As a Pets for Patriots member, the Army veteran received a 10% discount and access to discounted care for Simon from the charity’s local veterinary partners. In addition, he received a generous contribution from the Pets for Patriots Veterans’ Pet Food Bank program to help with food and other necessities for his new companion.
A “paw up” to make pet adoption affordable for veterans
Since then, Steven feels his home and heart – and even his head – have been warmed by his new pet friend. “Simon does a great job making me feel like I’m never alone,” he says. “Every night Simon comes to bed when I do, and he cuddles around my head. He works as a great pair of earmuffs at night.” Simon sleeping Steven most appreciates the Pets for Patriots program for making pet adoption and ownership affordable for veterans. “I had been looking for a pet but saw that the required initial fees were way more than I could afford in my situation,” he says. “If it had not been for this program, I would never have had the chance to get Simon.” Steven thinks that other service members and veterans who need the companionship of a pet in their lives should adopt through Pets for Patriots and its hundreds of partnerships across the country. “This is the best program out there to help veterans adopt a pet, especially if you are limited financially due to your military service,” he says. “Without this program, many veterans would not be allowed to have such helpful pet companions in their lives.” How does your pet keep you from feeling lonely?

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