Meet Class #276

Pictured from left to right: Liam and service dog Walker, trainer Annie Savo, John and service dog Rick, trainer Amy Bernard, Scott and service dog Bowen, Josh and service dog Mussy, Meg and service dog Conway, trainer Katie Young, John and service dog Buddy, trainer Laska Parrow, Tom and service dog K.C., Keith and service dog Sookie, William and service dog Lucinda

Congratulations Class #276!

We recently celebrated the graduation of Class #276. We are so proud of this strong and committed group of Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force veterans and we wish them every success with their new service dogs. Let’s meet the class!

Liam saw more in his five years in the Marine Corps than most see in a lifetime. As a field radio operator, he was deployed to 26 countries with his Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)—a Marine quick reaction force. In his final deployment with the MEU, they were the first to respond to the ISIS atrocities in northern Iraq. Now Liam has been matched with Walker, a beautiful, intelligent black Lab. As a health sciences major at USF, Liam looks forward to Walker helping him out on campus.

John is a 26-year Air Force veteran. TBI, PTSD, and orthopedic injuries cut short his career as a crew chief on C-5s and F-15s. As an F-15 crew chief, John helped to generate around-the-clock coverage of the skies during 9/11, and his base sent the first two jets to the Twin Towers. As an Intelligence Analyst with over 375 combat missions, he helped to decipher and ferret out combatant enemies. Since John’s injuries, he has found it easier to shut himself down from the outside. Now with service dog, Rick, by his side, this husband and father of teenage daughters is ready to get more from his life.

Scott spent his four-year Navy enlistment as an Engineman on the USS Rodney M. Davis FFG-60, homeported at the U.S. Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan, and his ship supported U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf and beyond. Over the years, his anxiety level from lingering PTSD continued to rise, while his balance issues stemming from injuries and subsequent surgeries made crowds increasingly difficult. Now he’s met Bowen, a beautiful black Lab with a laid-back personality who will have his back at every turn.

Joshua’s mom was relentless when it came to finding anything that would help him be more like the son she knew before he served five years in the Marines, and she helped him find Southeastern Guide Dogs. As a helicopter mechanic and pistol range coach, Joshua deployed all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but returning to civilian life was difficult. Now he has an attentive yellow Lab named Mussy by his side, and Joshua says that Mussy will be a lifesaver.

Army veteran Megan served as a Military Police Officer and platoon leader. It was her teammate at Wounded Warrior Project—a Southeastern Guide Dogs alumnus—who inspired the journey that led her to Conway, an affectionate and loyal black Labrador. Conway will help Megan when her job facilitating special events for other wounded warriors places her in stressful environments such as large crowds.

John served in the Army as an infantry soldier, and when his enlistment was up, he went on to become a firefighter. After 9/11, he volunteered with the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq, where he experienced a traumatic brain injury. Not long after returning from Iraq, signs of PTSD crept into John’s daily life. Now he has been matched with Buddy, a cheerful, alert yellow Lab. John is in his last year of preparing to become a middle school science teacher, and he’s proud to share that he’ll be taking Buddy with him to the classroom.

As a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator responsible for the in-flight refueling of other aircrafts, Air Force veteran Thomas had a steady hand and nerves of steel. He deployed for about 250 days per year during his eight-year stint, with over 100 combat hours of flying time. But coming home was another thing, and PTSD took its toll. Now there’s a beautiful black Lab named K.C. by his side, and the two are inseparable.

Retired Army medic Keith vividly remembers his 20th year in the Army. It was 2004 and he was deployed to Iraq. While riding with his unit in a Bradley, an IED blew up and the force of the blast caused a traumatic brain injury. Since retiring in 2008, Keith has lived with PTSD and intense migraines. But now with Sookie, an affectionate and intuitive yellow Lab and his new service dog, he’s getting his life back and he can’t wait to take her golfing and fly fishing.

Will served for almost 11 years in the Air Force as part of its security forces, and also contracted as a civilian after his enlistment concluded. He is currently studying for his master’s degree in management and volunteering with several nonprofits that support veterans. But Will lives with the lingering effects of war: a traumatic brain injury, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD. Now he’s met Lucinda, a gorgeous and spirited black Labrador, who has his back and is ready to join him and his family on new adventures.

Congratulations on all of your hard work, Class #276. Thank you for extraordinary contributions to our country, and welcome to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!

Posted on March 21, 2019 | Category: Blog, Graduates, Our Dogs