Four-tour combat veteran rejoins life with help of canine battle buddy

Adam has been devoted to serving his country for most of his adult life. The day he graduated from high school in 1999, he left for the United States Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. After basic training he attended the United States Marine Corps School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune.

Adam’s first duty station was the Marine Corps Barracks, otherwise known as “8th and I,” in Washington D.C. It is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps, founded in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows.

“After the attacks on 9/11,” Adam recalls, “I requested to join the ‘Fleet,’ and in December 2011, I reported to Golf Company 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.”

The Marine veteran served two deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and received his honorable discharge in 2003, shortly after coming home.

A combat veteran returns to the battlefield

Following his discharge from the Marines, Adam joined the Michigan Army National Guard and in 2006, graduated from Army Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry and joined the 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment of the MANG.

Two more deployments tested the battle-hardened Marine: in 2008 as a Rifle Platoon Leader in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and, in 2011, as a First Lieutenant during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Following his fourth combat deployment and after 13 years of valiant service to his country, in September, 2012, Adam came home.

From  Afghanistan, with love

Adam’s first priority was to adopt a pet, a decision he made while he was still serving in Afghanistan. 

“I knew what challenges lay ahead for a single guy living alone and being back home for the first time in a year,” he says. “Readjustment can be a difficult and sometimes lengthy process.”

From previous transitions, the four-tour combat veteran knew that he had to reintegrate to civilian life, and do so rather quickly. Adam and Griz

“My purpose was to help force me to get outside of my apartment and interact with others in my community,” Adam recalls, “In a college town that can be difficult, since a combat veteran doesn’t exactly have a lot in common with college students.”

The verdict? “It worked.”

Adam first reached out to Pets for Patriots, the national companion pet adoption program for veterans and service members, during the summer of 2012 and in anticipation of going home. He gave himself a simple goal: “Take care of a new dog.” While researching on the internet from Afghanistan, he found Pets for Patriots and started the application process.

“I decided to adopt through Pets for Patriots because the stories I was reading on the website seemed to match the same reasons I had for adopting a pet,” Adam explains.

But there was more.

“I didn’t want a puppy. I wanted a dog that already has had a life and has its own character. I wanted to save a pet.”

The right dog for the right man

Adam visited a local Pets for Patriots adoption partner in his community, Humane Society of the Huron Valley, where he had adopted a pet once before. The Society extends a 50% adoption fee discount and ongoing 10% discount at its full-service veterinary clinic to any Pets for Patriot member who adopts a program eligible pet.

“The Humane Society is outstanding,” says Adam. “They really do their research to find out if the pet you choose will be right for you before you bring them home. They also do a great job of educating a new pet owner in what to expect the first few weeks. They have an extremely caring and incredibly knowledgeable staff, as well as the best volunteers I’ve ever met anywhere.”

The right buddy for Adam turned out to be a Bull Mastiff named Mack; the veteran renamed him Griz. The big dog was exactly what Adam was looking for and already house-trained, which Adam thinks is the “second best thing” that he loves about Griz.

“I tell everyone I see to adopt an older dog,” Adam says. “Why train a puppy when you can save an older dog’s life who is already trained?”

While house training was a plus, there’s something about Griz that Adam loves even more.

“Probably the single best trait I love about Griz is that he is very playful and great off of the leash. I am an outdoors guy and I like to hike often,” Adam explains, “and I have been able to work with Griz and train him not to go too far ahead of me on the trail. This way I can unleash him and enjoy the trails of Michigan and the great outdoors, and keep my buddy close by.”

Adam reflects for a moment and adds, “Griz is wonderful company in the great outdoors.”

Support for transitioning veterans

Finding Griz has been a life saver for Adam. Even after four deployments, he admits that adjusting can be tough. Adam and Griz snow

“They sometimes seem like the most difficult piece of a deployment, if you can believe it.” He credits Pets for Patriots for their focus on what veterans need to reclaim their purpose in life after they come home.

“Besides the incredible support and savings in cash Pets for Patriots offer veterans, you are geared specifically for veterans and understand their needs,” Adam says about the charity. “You have veterans on your staff, which is nice to see as well.”

Most of all, Adam credits Pets for Patriots with their emphasis on healing – at both ends of the leash.

“You understand the connection between veterans and their desire to care and improve the world, as well as recognize that there are pets out there in need of a second chance,” he says. “Many people join the military because they want to make a positive impact in our world and society. Pets for Patriots allows America’s veterans to do that again by adopting an adult dog who needs a home.”

These days, Adam credits Griz with giving him a sense of purpose that some days he just doesn’t feel.

“Having Griz around has really helped,” says the combat veteran. “It seems odd, but it provides more structure in my life and forces me to get up on days I don’t want to. He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I have you and your team to thank for that.”

Do you know a returning veteran who would benefit from a four-legged battle buddy?

Comments

  1. Very Cool!

    RA

    • My husband was a Combat Engineer who went on 4 deployments to Iraq within 6 years.
      He is now in the WTB and we are going through a MED Board process after being declared non-deployable, with Chronic PTSD and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.
      HE DESPERATELY NEEDS A CERTIFIED TRAINED SERVICE DOG..not just a loving pet.
      We need to prove the animal has been trained by a certifiable trainer in order for the Army to approve he and the dog go everywhere together.
      Can we get a dog who is already trained?
      Do you know of a source of where we can get such a dog?
      I refrain from using the word ‘pet’, not because we would not love him/her as a member of our own family, but because those before us, here at Ft Hood, TX, brought in their own personal pets and SAID they were certified Service Dogs, and as a result, the Chain of Command has cracked down and is not allowing anyone to apply for a service dog.
      We sure would appreciate your help and any feedback!

  2. Beautiful story and pup! I can only imagine how much love they share and will continue to share!

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