CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- She may be the cutest warrior on the front lines fighting an invisible enemy. Mohawk, a young Labrador retriever is the newest member on team Leashes of Valor.
The non-profit pairs service dogs with post-9/11 veterans dealing with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries all at no cost to the veteran.
“These guys right here. They save lives,” said Leashes of Valor co-founder, Jason Haag. “It’s unbelievable the abilities they have. Stopping nightmares. Stopping anxiety. Its life saving and its life changing.”
Veterans live and train with their dogs for two-weeks at the group’s farm in Ruther Glen and public settings. But during the pandemic that is impossible. The cancellations put pressure on veterans in need and the group itself.
“Once isolation starts, and once quarantine starts you shouldn’t be taking people out in public anymore. That changed what we could do with the veterans during the training process,” said U.S. Navy veteran and president of the three-year-old group, Danique Masingill. “A little fear inducing because we’re like on standstill because none of us know how it’s going to play out.”
The group, which relies heavily on donations, is using social media to reach veterans during the COVID-19 crisis.
“That is what our job is to prevent social distancing,” said Haag. “Anything that helps us get the message out. The more people know about it. The more people we can help.”
Jason Haag knows firsthand that a service animal works miracles.
“Sitting in your room by yourself and staring at the wall is not a good thing for anybody,” said Haag.
The U.S. Marine was severely wounded in Iraq in 2003. His German Sheppard, Axel, helped Jason heal his hopelessness.
“To be able to save someone’s life and to reach them through the leash. I think all of our dogs are super excited to do that,” said Haag.
Jason Haag says despite the pandemic, Leashes of Valor needs to carry on their mission. Fellow veterans depend on it.
“Because that is what we are trained to do in the beginning. We’re never going to leave someone behind. It doesn’t matter if you’re overseas or back here. We’re going to keep going till we can’t do it anymore.”
If you would like to help Leashes of Valor, click here.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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