HIGH POINT, N.C. — Studies indicate at least one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A High Point non-profit uses canine comrades to help those service men and women heal and find hope again here at home.
Patriot Rovers rescues Golden Retrievers and pairs each with a service member who needs help with emotional and social stability. They are veteran and active service members with PTSD and/or Post Traumatic Brain Injuries.
In addition, each service dog is named after a fallen soldier. The goal of Patriot Rovers is to honor men and women who lost their lives as a result of serving their country, all while training the dogs to help survivors recover emotionally.
For MSgt. Joshua Marlowe, even a month with his new service dog has made a difference.
“He’s good with family and the kids. He treats the baby like his own, licking him and everything,” Marlowe said. “As for me, he’s woke me up a few times in the night when I’ve started having my night terrors.”
“When I start getting anxiety,” he continued, “I can call him up and adjust my breathing to his.”
Marlowe says it’s a partnership that soothes. His wife, Cindy, was the one who first suggested he apply for a psychiatric service dog as part of his recovery.
Marlowe is a load-master with the N.C. Air National Guard. He was sent on a C-130 aircraft from Charlotte to southwest South Dakota to fight wildfires last Summer.
“This was numerous times we’ve been to do that,” Marlowe said. After a pause he explained, “Our plane went down.”
Four airmen were killed in the crash, while two survived.
“I was one of the survivors,” Marlowe added solemnly.
Having also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times, Marlowe understandably has a difficult time discussing his experiences.
That’s something else Patriot Rovers helps with.
The dogs trained for ten months before meeting their new owners. This week, nine service members and their nine service dogs met and trained together for the first time.
“Each different story, there’s a common denominator. We can all connect on and talk about it,” Marlowe said.
On Friday, the canines will graduate in High Point. Marlowe’s dog is named Captain Mike.
“This dog is named after Michael Fielder,” Marlowe said while pointing to U.S. Army patches on the dog’s harness. “He was an army veterinarian who got an infection overseas and passed away.”
Fielder’s family lives in Lexington. They have met the dog named for their son.
“I think it was really good for them to meet,” Marlowe said. “Emotional, but a good thing.”
Fielder was 35 years old and working as a veterinary service officer in 2007 when he died in Baghdad.
As a father of three working to recover from his injuries from the plane crash, Marlowe says Captain Mike is more than just a pet. For him and his wife, the dog represents a better life and an opportunity to find normalcy once again.