Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Commanding Officer Prevents Navy Corpsman with TBI, PTSD and Dissociative Amnesia from Getting a Service Dog

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Jacksonville, NC

Click Here for printable version

“Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” said the sharp, dismissive and flippant voice of U.S. Navy Captain, Gerard R. Cox, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC. This statement subsequently ended the second attempt by HM2 Kloppenborg’s psychological treatment team to place him on convalescent leave so that he could begin the process of obtaining a Psychiatric Service Dog. It also began the second period of deliberately inflicted psychological trauma HM2 Kloppenborg had to endure; caused, not by the Taliban, not by an al-Qaeda terrorist or an Iraqi militant, but by his own NAVY and his own Commanding Officer.

Hospital Corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Buf Kloppenborg is a true hero although the humble, highly decorated Combat Medic would never admit this himself. With 14 years of service in the U.S. Navy, three combat tours in Iraq, which resulted in TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and countless other assignments; HM2 Kloppenborg is now confronting another diagnosis; Dissociative Amnesia. Between HM2 Kloppenborg’s return from his third combat tour in Iraq in October 2008 and again in late January, 2009, he underwent many turbulent and traumatic personal psychological events which culminated when he attended the funeral of a Marine; a close personal friend in Western North Carolina. ”I woke up on January 31, 2009 curled up in the back of my vehicle in a totally confused state of mind. I could not remember anything in my life after to 1994”, related Kloppenborg, “I thought I was 25 years old and I didn’t know what I was doing in North Carolina.” HM2 Kloppenborg was able to contact a friend from Denver he had known for over 20 years. With the help of this friend, Buf returned to Camp Lejeune, not remembering anything other than what his friend had told him about why he was returning. He followed his friend’s advice and instructions and checked himself into the U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.

For the next several weeks Buf was a medical mystery. He was back at his duty station. He had supervised, reported to, and worked side-by-side with these people just days before, but he couldn’t remember anything or anyone. In fact, he couldn’t remember the past 14 years of his life. Buf does not remember his ex-wife or his children, his three combat tours in Iraq, or his other duty rotations. He has no recollection of his friends or the hundreds of Marines whose lives he has saved, or the injuries he has treated. HM2 Kloppenborg has Dissociative Amnesia; very simply stated, this is when a person blocks out a time period of their life that is frequently associated with a stressful or traumatic event. “Buf has an extreme case as his time period is quite substantial,” said Dr. (Commander) Rebecca Webster, USN, a member of Buf’s psychological treatment team. “Buf’s case is also quite unique in that his amnesia has lasted for such a long period of time,” continued Dr. Webster.

Buf is constantly approached by Marines who thank him for saving their lives or the life of one of their buddies. Buf has “old friends” who come up and engage him in conversations about events and people he should remember – but he does not.

Buf lives with the after effects of his TBI and Complex-PTSD due to events and injuries he does not remember. “Try answering questions in a therapy session about what happened to cause your PTSD symptoms when you can’t even remember being in the country, let alone the actual event that caused the injury. It’s very hard,” said Buf. His brother related that Buf’s injuries were the result of an IED explosion in Iraq.

Buf has an ever increasing fear of touching other people and of being touched. Of particular difficulty for him is being approached unknowingly from behind; the “Fight-or-Flight Response” immediately kicks in. Buf constantly has to “check his 6” to the point that, at times, it could be called an obsession. “I am very afraid of what I might do to a person if they were to surprise me by tapping me on the shoulder. I am very afraid that I might hurt someone. I don’t know how I would handle it if I hurt someone, so I pretty much try to stay away from people or situations where that might happen,” explained Buf. Buf has experienced the “Fight-or-Flight” response at the slightest brush of physical contact (i.e., a store clerk brushing his hand while giving him change).

Because of this fear, Buf is no longer able to provide treatment to patients which is what he loves to do. “I stay in an office and the other Corpsman comes in and consults with me about their patients.” “The Dissociative Amnesia (DA) has changed many aspects of my life,” Buf said, with a dejected tone in his voice.

Buf cannot function in crowds, (defined as more than two people). Any crowd has the potential to initiate an anxiety or panic attack. Therefore, Buf has developed the coping mechanism of shopping for his food at his “local-friendly corner convenience store” at 0300 in the morning and only if and when there are no other customers in the store.

Buf lives in the house that was his home. “I don’t remember anything about living here before. They told me it was my home, but I don’t remember it”, said Buf. Buf is very sensitive to having females or children around him, although he cannot explain why. “Having kids come running up to me is especially hard to deal with,” Buf advised.

Perhaps the most devastating aspect of Buf’s situation is his inability to remember his ex-wife and children, the death of his Mother, countless Sailors and Marines who should or could (now) be his friends and/or supporters, and the death of his favorite dog, WILLIE, who he still looks for when he awakens at night.

In August 2009, with the enthusiastic support of his medical treatment team, Dr. Sara Spar, Dr. Rebecca Webster, and his Command Master Chief, Terry Prince, HM2 Kloppenborg, applied for a Psychiatric Service Dog from the paws4vets program. “We had witnessed the incredible positive effects going on with the paws4vets PTSD Intervention Program and its process for obtaining a Psychiatric Service Dog and what positive results were being seen with one of our Marines, so we thought it would be very beneficial for Buf to do the same thing,” said Dr. Spar.

paws4vets is a program within the paws4people foundation ( The paws4people foundation privately places trained, certified and insured Assistance Dogs (AD) with individuals with physical, neurological, psychological and/or emotional disabilities, including civilians (generally adolescents under the age of fourteen) through its paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4pADPP) and with Veterans (active-duty military and/or their dependents) through its paws4vets ( Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4vADPP). All paws4people Assistance Dogs are trained by federal inmates within one of five federal prisons ( paws4people is also a member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program’s (AW2) Community Support Network.

HM2 Kloppenborg’s application was accepted by the paws4vets Application Committee in August 2009. Two dogs were identified within the p4vADPP as potential Psychiatric Services Dogs for him. “Buf’s Service Dog would need customized training; to “check Buf’s 6” and alert him to someone approaching him and then increase the alert level if someone tries to reach out to touch Buf,” said Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, Director, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets. “Our training team and the inmates have Service Dogs doing just about everything you can think of, including retrieving laser-designated items, relieving themselves on command and on “piddle-pads” to facilitate long airplane flights, and waking Client’s during nightmares, but Buf presented with a unique skill set requirement.”

Within days, SALLY, a 22 month-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, and a Certified, Public Access, Service Dog began her customized training protocols under the guidance of Mrs. Karen Owens, paws4prisons Chief Trainer, Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, Alderson, WV. SALLY began her training of the command; PAY ATTENTION. The PAY ATTENTION command will have SALLY sitting at her handler’s left or right side facing backwards to the handler. [Sally’s handler is the person she is in essence working for. Her handlers are her trainers right now, but could be Buf in the future.]

SALLY then observes people as they move around behind her handler. If a person comes within 5-8 feet of the handler, SALLY will use her nose to “nudge alert” the handler’s hand or leg. If the person continues toward her handler, and begins to reach out to touch her handler, SALLY will “bark alert.” SALLY also began her customized training to learn how to awaken her handler should he/she experience a nightmare or flashback while they are sleeping. Simultaneously, JAKE, an 18 month-old Black Labrador Retriever, a Service Dog In-Training, began the identical training protocols under the tutelage of Ms. Heidi Livengood, Chief Trainer, paws4prsions, Federal Prison Camp Hazelton, U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV.

paws4vets began coordinating schedules with Buf’s Command and with the prison in order to place Buf on Temporary Active Duty (TAD) orders or convalescent leave so that he could travel to Alderson and Bruceton Mills, WV to visit the paws4prisons training facilities and meet both potential Service Dogs. The process to gain Buf’s security clearance for entry into the federal prisons was obtained. On September 9, 2009, everything was set for Buf to begin the process of obtaining his Psychiatric Service Dog.. The day before Buf was scheduled to leave Camp Lejeune he was informed that “somewhere up the Chain-of-Command” his orders were denied and that he would not be able to visit the dogs. There were questions raised regarding the Service Dog being considered a gift and the fact that paws4people/paws4vets was not officially affiliated with the Navy. Needless to say, Buf was completely disappointed; he felt betrayed by his Command, which subsequently led to escalation of his symptoms, including increased stress, anxiety, and depression.

During the next two weeks Buf experienced his worst fear. On two occasions an individual came up from behind Buf and touched him on the shoulder to simply get his attention. Both individuals were old friends who were not aware of Buf’s situation. They were simply glad to see him and neither had malicious intent. Buf experienced the Fight-or-Flight response during both events; he felt the need to protect himself. In both cases Buf was able to control his reaction at the last possible second. “Both of those people are extremely lucky Buf was able to have controlled his reaction,” said Ms. Kyria Henry, Founder and Deputy Executive Director, paws4people and Executive Director, paws4prisons. “What would have happened to Buf if his control would have been just a little slower and he had actually assaulted either or both of those people? He would be in jail. We have a Service Dog for him that would prevent such an occurrence from happening. I wonder how his “Command” would have felt then?”

“These two events have only caused all of us at paws4vets and paws4prisons to double our efforts on Buf’s behalf,” said Mrs. Kaminsky, “We have made phone calls and sent emails; to anyone and everyone that we can think of in order to get someone, somewhere to help Buf obtain the permission he needs to start his Service Dog selection and placement process.” Buf said that if he had hurt either of his friends that he “could never forgive himself.” Buf then requested to take personal leave in order to meet the dogs, however, his request was denied by his Unit Commander, Commander Buchanan, because he knew where Buf planned to go during his personal leave - and he knew his boss was against it.

“One of the people we sought assistance from for Buf was Clay Rankin,” said Mrs. Kaminsky. Clay Rankin (medically retired MSgt. Clay Rankin, USA, is an Advocate for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2)). Clay, as a result of injuries received in Iraq, is best known by his permanent sidekick; ARCHIE. ARCHIE is a Service Dog; a Black Labrador Retriever that has been Clay’s constant alter-ego for the past 6 years. ARCHIE enables Clay to walk, travel and conduct his life with minimal limitations. “He’s also helped me battle PTSD and depression,” added Clay. ARCHIE was recently named the ASPCA’s Service Dog of the Year for 20091. Clay works everyday in one of three VA Medical Centers with ARCHIE by his side. Clay also serves as the Army’s AW2 Single Point of Contact for Service Dog Placement. Clay contacted and spoke extensively with Command Master Chief, Terry Prince, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. Clay and Master Chief Prince discussed the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and the VA (Veterans Affairs) and DOD (Department of Defense) laws, rules and regulations regarding the placement, use and utilization of Service Dogs within a hospital environment and countless other topics. Mr. Rankin requested that his conversation be conveyed by Master Chief Prince to the Commander, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.

Weeks passed while Buf’s emotional well-being diminished. On November 6th, all indications were made that Buf would be allowed to take personal leave if paws4vets would pay for Buf’s travel expenses provided those expenses did not exceed $1,000.00. Buf’s Command would allow him to travel to West Virginia to begin the Service Dog selection process, on November 8th. A paws4vets volunteer was dispatched to Jacksonville, NC. At approximately 1500 on November 7th, Buf called the volunteer to inform him that he had just been told that his personal leave had been denied by order of the Hospital Commander. He told the volunteer that he was “very sorry to have wasted his time” with such a tone of despair and anger that the volunteer was concerned for Buf’s well-being.

In the hours that followed Captain Cox’s orders, Buf’s Mental Health treatment team scrambled to ensure that he was immediately cared for as they recognized the possibility of the emotional toll Captain Cox’s decision would have on Buf’s emotional well-being. One would have to question whether Captain Cox supports the Hippocratic Oath because his decision to deny HM2 Kloppenborg convalescent leave and subsequently personal leave was going to cause considerable emotional distress to Buf, a Sailor, AND a patient under his Command.

Several members of Buf’s treatment team and enlisted advisors within the command courageously, (without regard for potentially damaging repercussions to their careers) attempted to counsel Captain Cox in order to change his mind regarding Buf’s personal leave. Captain Gerard Cox, reiterated his denial of HM2 Kloppenborg’s request to take personal leave. Sources revealed that “Captain Cox is an ER doctor; he has nothing but contempt and disdain for Mental Health.” “Captain Cox has the opinion that if he allows one person in the hospital to get a dog, then he will have dogs running all around the hospital sooner or later.” Captain Cox’s statement; “Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” adequately communicates the Captain’s complete lack of knowledge and ignorance regarding the medically recognized value afforded a patient by an Assistance Dog, or it may be further evidence of the Captain’s “contempt and disdain for anything Mental Health,” maybe both.

A Service Dog is a highly trained and sophisticated therapeutic resource that is custom trained to assist their handler with physical and/or psychiatric disabilities. For those with physical disabilities, the dog can be viewed as an augmentative medical device which provides its handler with not only physical benefits, such as a balance, mobility (i.e., pulling a wheelchair), and picking up and retrieving objects, but also with, psychological and emotional benefits that no other device can deliver. Could you imagine Captain Cox denying a patient a wheelchair, a prosthetic arm or leg, a shunt, or a respirator? And if he did attempt to deny the utilization of one of these commonly accepted augmentative medical devices, could you imagine the public outcry that would result from such a Neanderthal decision?

Where is the public outcry for denying a Service Dog to a patient?

The benefits of a Service Dog may also be viewed as an adjunct therapy, in terms of Animal-Assisted Therapy, when addressing a patient’s treatment/recovery intervention plan. For those with psychiatric disabilities, a Service Dog can provide the emotional support a person needs in order to be able to function in society by providing environmental assessments or “alerting” behaviors for their handlers. These dogs also foster feelings of safety and acceptance, provide a sense of purpose, and allow people to forget their pain and limitations by focusing outward. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy often times surpass the benefits of prescription medication.

“You know the really ironic thing?” said a Sailor who did not want his name used, “Right across the parking lot, in the WWB (Wounded Warrior Battalion) there is a Marine with a Service Dog and there is supposed to be another Marine getting one2.. What’s he (the Hospital Commander) going to do when they have to come to the hospital for treatment? Kick the dogs out?” According to this same Sailor, the Commanding General, Camp Lejeune, has an “administrative-type” within his Command suite that has a Service Dog.

It was discovered that “Safe Harbor,” a program out of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations’ Office, was made aware of Buf’s difficulties.

Between November 30 and December 3, 2009, conversations were conducted between Chief Hellman and Mrs. Kaminsky, in which it was disclosed that Buf’s most recent request for personal leave would be granted. Buf would be allowed to travel to the paws4prisons training facilities and begin the process of obtaining his Service Dog. In order for Buf to travel, it was requested that paws4people pay for Buf’s travel expenses. As of December 4, 2009, Buf advised the paws4vets staff that his request for “personal leave” was granted and that he would be leaving Camp Lejeune on Monday, December 7th. Buf further related that he had been told that since he was in “non-deployable” status, he was going to be medically discharged from the Navy, and that this process was going to be “fast-tracked” (to take place within the next 90 days). Buf also related that there were conditions placed on his travel; he was not allowed to tell anyone that he was in the Navy or that he was a Corpsman. It had also been suggested that he tell paws4vets to remove his profile from their web site.

As a point of information; the process of obtaining a Service Dog from paws4vets, for someone like Buf, usually takes between 3-6 months. This fact was explained to Buf’s Command when he submitted his application in August 2009. If events take their pre-described courses of action, Buf will be discharged from the Navy before he receives his Service Dog. Does anyone see the plan of action being plotted by the Commander of the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune?

Parting questions:
Does Buf want to be discharged from the Navy?
Does anyone care what Buf wants?
Is this the way we (as a society) want our heroes to be treated?
Does any U.S. Navy parent want their son or daughter serving under the command of Captain Gerard R. Cox?

© 2009, paws4people, All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure: The author, Terry Henry is the Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4vets. He is a Veteran and has been living with the effects of Complex-PTSD for the past 24 years.

1. ARCHIE passed away two weeks after he received his Service Dog of the Year Award. All of us at paws4people, paws4prisons and paws4vets extend our deepest sympathies to Clay for his loss. We also wish ARCHIE a fond farewell, as he exemplified every aspect of service and loyalty a Service Dog should have. We are dedicated to training and placing Assistance Dogs that even ARCHIE would be proud of.

2. The individual this source was referring to is Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC, Wounded Warrior Battalion – East, Camp Lejeune. Sgt. Martin is a Client of paws4vets and is in the process of obtaining his Psychiatric Service Dog; LIA. LIA and Sgt. Martin should be permanently teamed together in January 2010. Preparations are underway for LIA to transfer to Camp Lejeune to begin her service with Sgt. Martin.

To learn more about HM2 Kloppenborg, click here:

To help HM2 Kloppenborg help other active-duty military and/or Veterans receive an Assistance Dog, click here:

To learn more about paws4vets, click here:

To help paws4vets acquire, train and place more Assistance Dogs, click here:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Revolutionary PTSD Intervention Program Helps Marine Erase PTSD, TBI Symptoms

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Morgantown, WV
For Printable Version, Click Here

April 2009; Meet Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC. Kyria, the Founder and Deputy Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4prisons further recounted the visit; “Paul sat in a chair across from me, he avoided eye contact, he stared at the ground and maybe once answered a question with more than one word – it was surreal.” During the hour-long interview it was learned the Sgt. Martin had been at VA Martinsburg for a little over three months, had not done very well during his first three-month PTSD Therapy Counseling Program, and was in the process of re-taking the course. He was on a “cocktail” of six or seven different medications, spent most of his time thinking about his combat experiences, having auditory hallucinations, was extremely depressed and didn’t like his counseling sessions. The only diversion he had was TV and he didn’t like it much. He was “stuck” in the hospital since he didn’t have a car and even if he did he could not drive due to the medications he was taking. “I remember walking away from that experience saying – “I don’t know if he is ready to take care of a dog, I don’t know how much it will help,” Kyria said. To which, Terry Henry, Executive Director, paws4vets, said back to her, “That’s exactly what Paul needs.”

Fast-forward, November 2009; Meet Sgt. Paul Martin, USMC: “I am doing GREAT – for the first time since I got back (from his last tour in Iraq) I have gone a week without any symptoms – it’s wonderful and it’s all because of her,” said Sgt. Paul Martin, as he patted LIA, his future Psychiatric Service Dog on her head. “If it wasn’t for her I’d still be back at the Battalion eating all of those pills,” Paul continued. Sgt. Martin had just finished his third week of transfer training with LIA, a 20-month-old Black Labrador Retriever. Paul was sitting in a crowded restaurant with LIA at his feet. Paul was smiling, laughing, at times, and carrying on a conversation with the other four people at the table. “He’s like a totally a different person, if I hadn’t witnessed his transformation over the past four months there is NO way I would have ever believed it possible,” said Heidi Livengood, Chief Trainer, paws4prisons, USP Hazelton. The paws4prisons training facility in Bruceton Mills, WV is where Paul and LIA are going through their transfer training. Paul further described the adventures he and LIA had had during the week. They had visited a second grade classroom and he and LIA had read to the children. They had visited a Cub Scout Pack meeting where he told the Cub Scouts about LIA and answered “hundreds” of questions about being a Marine. He and LIA had visited a state park and had hiked for hours through the woods. “You know – I surprised myself by having so much fun – it’s been a long time,“ said Paul. When asked if he thought he would ever be able to talk in front of a group of kids like he did, he simply answered, “No, but I can do anything with LIA.”

Sgt. Martin’s Story: Paul Martin was eighteen when he enlisted in the Marines in 2003. Sgt. Martin has served three combat tours, in 2004-2005 (7 months), 2005-2006 (6 months) and 2007 (7 months). “I spent my three deployments in some of the roughest places in Iraq and lost a lot. During my first deployment, I lost my squad leader, Sgt. J.D. Patterson; he was a father figure to me. He made me the man I am today. He was taken from us on January 15th, 2005; I struggle with his death every day,” related Paul. “Since my first deployment, I have been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, auditory hallucinations, environmentally induced anxiety and anxiety/panic attacks, depression, agoraphobia and extreme survivor guilt. I have attempted suicide three times due to my bewildering symptoms. Due to my symptoms and their frequency, I have had trouble making and keeping friends and experience a lot of stress in relationships.”

Sgt. Martin was eventually transferred to the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East at Camp Lejeune, NC, in order to concentrate on the treatment of his PTSD. Since his assignment to the WWB, he has participated in many different treatment programs and protocols. In January 2009, he was transferred to the PTSD Center at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) – Martinsburg, in Martinsburg, WV. Here he spent five-and-one-half months. During his treatment at VAMC Martinsburg, Paul realized that he needed additional help in coping with and managing my PTSD symptoms. “Thanks to the encouragement and help of my Case Manger at Camp Lejeune, I started researching Service Dog Placement for Veterans with PTSD and found paws4vets,” said Paul.

Sgt. Martin submitted an application, was interviewed at VAMC Martinsburg and was subsequently accepted as a paws4vets Client to receive a Psychiatric Service Dog.

paws4vets has its own capability to link with its Client’s medical and psychological treatment teams,” said Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, B.S.N, R.N., Director, Medical Evaluation Team (MET), paws4vets. “This unique capability allows paws4vets to more completely understand our Client’s needs and limitations. It allows us the ability to customize not only their transfer training required to master the skills to effectively utilize their new Service Dog; but it also allows us the ability to leverage that dog’s motivational capabilities to the benefit of the Client and their interaction(s) with their VA or Military medical and/or psychological treatment teams,” continued Allison.

Through this collaborative effort, Sgt. Martin’s medical and psychological treatment protocols and methodologies at Camp Lejeune were modified such that his compliance and participation earned him the ability to visit LIA in WV. Simple and -- in Sgt. Martin’s case -- very effective.

Sgt. Martin first met LIA during his first visit to the paws4prisons K-9 Training Facility at the Federal Prison Camp, U. S. Penitentiary Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV. paws4prisons, like paws4vets are programs which are part of the paws4people foundation ( The paws4people foundation privately places trained, certified and insured Assistance Dogs (AD) with persons with disabilities. These dogs are placed with individuals with physical, neurological, psychological and/or emotional disabilities. The paws4people foundation places Assistance Dogs with civilians (generally adolescents under the age of fourteen) through it paws4people Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4pADPP) and with Veterans, active-duty military and/or their dependants through its paws4vets ( Assistance Dog Placement Program (p4vADPP). All paws4people Assistance Dogs are trained by federal inmates within one of five federal prisons ( paws4people is also a member of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program’s (AW2) Community Support Network.

Sgt. Martin’s first visit took place during the last days of his stay at VAMC Martinsburg. Paul was completely under the influence of his “cocktail.” He was able to spend about an hour meeting and interacting with LIA. “The first time I met LIA was only for a few minutes but I recall being asked if I liked LIA and I said “No, I love her,” recounts Paul, “I felt a bond with LIA immediately.”

Sgt. Martin returned to the WWB at Camp Lejeune and within a week attempted suicide for the third time. This of course landed Sgt. Martin in the Psychiatric Ward at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune -- the exact place he did not want to be. During the subsequent teleconference meetings between the paws4vets MET and Sgt. Martin’s Camp Lejeune medical and psychological treatment team, it was decided to try the following strategy with Sgt. Martin: Sgt. Martin was to be told, by his Camp Lejeune treatment team, that if he abided by all of his treatment teams’ requests and did not try to commit suicide again during the next three weeks, he would be allowed to go to West Virginia to visit LIA. The paws4vets MET would send staff to Camp Lejeune who would meet with Sgt. Martin and in essence tell him the same thing, thus reinforcing the treatment strategy. Sgt. Martin not only met the requirements of this treatment strategy, he exceeded the expectations of both treatment teams.

Sgt. Martin’s TAD orders were issued and accompanied by his mother (who drove Paul, since Paul could not drive himself due to the medications he was taking) they arrived in Morgantown in late August 2009. Under the tutelage of the paws4prisons staff -- Kyria Henry and Heidi Livengood -- Paul was re-introduced to LIA and over the proceeding week was taught the art and skill of Assistance Dog handling. He began to learn LIA’s language and her 100+ commands. He learned to handle her in the seclusion of his hotel room and its parking lot and then watched Kyria and Heidi as they handled LIA in public venues such as restaurants, retail stores and a movie theater. “After spending a week with LIA and the staff of paws4vets, I have a new found sense of purpose as well as something to look forward to being involved with,” said Paul, “With someone to keep me moving and proactive, like LIA, I know that my life and the quality of my life are going to be up and on the rise.”

Paul was sent back to Camp Lejeune with very simple instructions (which were pre-approved via coordination between the paws4vets MET and Sgt. Martin’s Camp Lejeune treatment team). His instructions were: Cooperate completely and enthusiastically with your Camp Lejeune treatment team, try to decrease your meds, and don’t try to commit suicide during the next three-four weeks. Accomplish this, and you can come back for your second week of transfer training with LIA.

Well, Sgt. Martin once again surprised both treatment teams and exceeded expectations. Sgt. Martin was once again issued TAD orders and returned to Morgantown in early October for his second week of transfer training with LIA. He was re-introduced to handling LIA under the watchful eyes of Kyria and Heidi. On the second day Paul was told to take LIA to the local WalMart by himself. Unknown to him, others were watching just in case. Paul and LIA proceeded to have a wonderful time walking up and down the aisles. Paul reported that after a few minutes of indecision on LIA’s part, he was able to refocus her attention and she worked perfectly for him the rest of his visit. Paul seemed quite pleased with himself and LIA. Paul worked the rest of the week alone with LIA, taking her to stores, walks on downtown streets, to restaurants, parks, malls, etc. His confidence and personality both seemed to grow and return. At the end of the week, Sgt. Martin received the same instructions (under the same auspices) as he had at the end of his previous training session with LIA: Cooperate completely and enthusiastically with your Camp Lejeune treatment team, try to decrease your meds, and don’t try to commit suicide during the next three-four weeks. Accomplish this and you can come back for your third week of transfer training with LIA.

The month at Camp Lejeune can only be described as incredible. Sgt. Martin was like a “new” person, commented several of his treatment team. He significantly reduced his medications, with his treatment team’s guidance and approval. He was provided with TAD orders this time for both VA and WV. LIA was transferred from WV to the paws4vets offices just outside Leesburg, VA.

“I simply could not believe my eyes,” said Allison Kaminsky, “he was driving a car.” Paul met Allison for a day of training which consisted of visiting an elementary school and a Cub Scout Pack. “It simply warmed my heart when I saw Paul and LIA reunited, it was something quite special,” remembered Allison. Paul related to Allison that he was off his medications with the exception of sleep aids, and only if he needed them. “He was full of life, talked and talked, and you should have seen him with the kids!” she said. Paul visited Hillsboro Elementary School, Hillsboro, VA, where he and LIA read to the students of a second grade class. “I was so proud of LIA,” said Paul, after the reading session was completed. Later that day after taking LIA to the outlet mall, Paul and LIA visited Cub Scout Pack 961, Den 8 at the Round Hill Elementary School, Round Hill, VA. Here Paul and LIA were the “stars” of the show, and Paul displayed untold patience as he answered “hundreds” of questions from the Cub Scouts about LIA and being a Marine. It was an experience that neither the Cub Scouts not Paul will soon forget.

Paul and LIA then transited to Morgantown where he was one of five guests-of-honor at a dinner hosted by the paws4prisons training staff. Paul and LIA sat in a very crowded restaurant at a table with 30+ other people and engaged in conversation, laughing and smiling the whole time. Afterwards, when asked if he would have been able to attend such a dinner a few months ago, Paul replied, “I could not have done it without LIA by my side, but we did it and I had a good time.”

Paul and LIA are currently scheduled for their fifth and final transfer training week in Morgantown beginning December 7th. Outside of a few interactions with paws4prisons training staff he and LIA will actually be on their own for most of the week (except for “secret” checks by trainers along the way).

Shortly after the new year, and as soon as the WWB East schedules Paul’s “home visit” and Command briefing LIA will be transferred to Camp Lejeune to begin what is hoped to be a long and successful working relationship with Sgt. Paul Martin, USCM.

© 2009, paws4people, All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure: The author, Terry Henry is the Executive Director, paws4people and the Executive Director, paws4vets. He is a Veteran and has been living with the effects of Complex-PTSD for the past 24 years.

To learn more about Sgt. Martin, click here:

To help Sgt. Martin help other active-duty military and/or Veterans receive an Assistance Dog, click here:

To learn more about paws4vetsTM, click here:

To help paws4vetsTM acquire, train and place more Assistance Dogs, click here: