Sgt. First Class Brock, now medically retired, was on a mission in Iraq to destroy an enemy stronghold of unoccupied houses rigged with explosives. “We identified our targets and placed ourselves and vehicles between the buildings and the people. We started dropping the houses using 500 pound JDAMS (bombs).”
The soldiers had been assured that their position was far enough away from the explosions to prevent them from harm. Brock stood in the hatch of the truck, while the other members of his group remained inside. He immediately realized, “we were too close. The explosions coming through shook me up a little too much.”
Afterwards, he began experiencing extreme and excruciating migraines. He also had sleep disturbances related to “things I saw” in the war, such as a suicide bomber. “By the grace of God, the car bomb missed us by seconds. No one was injured.” His symptoms continued and worsened after deployment. Brock underwent extensive treatment for PTSD and married Stormi, his caretaker and the love of his life. But despite medication and cognitive therapy, he improved little.
Fortunately, Brock reached out to Angel Airlines Veterans. He had volunteered in their office for a time and was pleased when someone there referred him to a service dog facility called paws4people. He applied and was accepted into the veterans branch of the program, then began the process of dog selection (dog selects vet and not the other way around! The process is called “the bump”) and extensive training. A young golden retriever named Tannen chose Brock, and Angel Airlines for Veterans has provided the Virginia Beach resident with several free trips.
The first was to Lakin Correctional Center in West Columbia, West Virginia, where qualified inmates handle and train canines as part of a sister program called paws4prisons. That’s where Brock got “bumped” by Tannen. The next step was a series of trips to paws4vets headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina for rigorous training at select intervals. After successfully passing a variety of skill requirements, Tannen was able to go to his new home for good. Brock says she has changed his life.
“Now I can go to restaurants and the mall. My schedule has become normal and I’m sleeping through the night.” He explained that Tannen senses when he’s under stress and will nudge him with her nose to help him re-focus. She also intervenes when Brock is having a nightmare. At 18 months, this amazing animal knows and obeys approximately 100 commands.
Brock expressed his appreciation for Angel Airlines’ help: “I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for making this all possible. You truly are angels!”