“Woofing” for our warriors

by Winnie Blackwood

When former Marine Sgt. Bryan Purcell needed help getting wounded Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan to Washington, D. C., local veteran Paul DuBois was called in to aid the project.

After being shot in the head twice and spending two years in a hospital Ryan, a former sniper, suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had a goal to participate in the Marine Marathon.

This was the start of Mountains to Miracles Veterans Foundation Inc., a non profit organization created to help veterans in need, both locally and nationally. DuBois is the president and founder.

“It just keeps growing by leaps and bounds. Initially we just kind of figured on doing the basics. Helping them get benefits and food,” DuBois said of MMVF.

Expanding across the country and becoming a full fledged veterans’ agency, DuBois deals with cases such as getting food for those who need it to talking veterans out of suicide. The next project for the nonprofit is building a retreat.

“It takes them 400 to 450 days to get their benefits. By that time they’ve maxed out their credit cards, so the next step is drugs, alcohol or suicide,” he said.

He added, “If you can save one life it’s worth it. We’ve saved a lot more then that I think.”

Photo by Catherine Hladik of Paul DuBois and Brian Peck.
Photo by Catherine Hladik of Paul DuBois and Brian Peck.

Brian Peck is an example of one of those lives. After his time in the service from 1996-2007, Peck, who suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and brain damage, came home and chose alcohol in order to forget.

“I realized quickly that yeah this sucks I’m going down, and that’s not what I wanted out of my life,” he said. “I didn’t sacrifice my health and my life to come back and be troubled. I didn’t want to be a burden on society.”

Peck was put in contact with DuBois and has been involved ever since, talking with the veterans and working for MMVF’s program Woofs for Warriors as their adoption director.

Woofs for Warrior pairs vets with emotional support dogs, after going through a screening process to ensure the house is suitable and there are funds to support the animal. The program does pay for the dogs and the training, which the veterans must partake in.

“Number one is the animal. Number two is to help the vet as far as his PTSD,” Peck said.

According to Peck it costs around $1,000 to become an emotional support dog.

Woofs for Warriors has paired 29 dogs so far with veterans, and DuBois said the breeds range from the standard German shepherds and black labrador retrievers to chihuahuas and standard poodles.

Peck, himself, has an emotional support dog, a German shepherd named Odin, who he wants to train to become a service dog.

“For me it’s just having the companionship. I like having that beast right next to me. It makes me feel good,” he remarked.

FM’s Community Outreach is holding a dog basket raffle to raise funds to donate to the organization, as well as a food drive.

If you would like to donate, volunteer or are a veteran in need of assistance, contact DuBois by phone at (518) 265-7345, or by email at diplomatman2002@yahoo.com.

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