Service dog helps Iraq war veteran in battle with PTSD

Iraq combat veteran winning battle with PTSD thanks to service dog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - When he was serving with the 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army, Nick Johnson says he had no idea how the brutal images of war would affect him.

“War is war. It happens. We all know what we signed up for if we have to go,” retired Army Veteran Nick Johnson of Mooresville said. “It’s just I don’t want to have people see what I’ve seen, or deal with what I’ve had to deal with.”

He’s one of thousands who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates as many as 20 percent of those who served will be diagnosed with PTSD every year.

WBTV asked Johnson to describe what his experience with PTSD has been like.

“It's anger. It's depression. It's hopelessness,” he said. “You just don't think there's any help to it. You don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Then Nick put in an application for a service dog at a nonprofit in Lexington, North Carolina.

“It’s a complete 180,” Nick says of life since the companionship of Buddy, his service dog. “I was very negative. Just angry all the time. 0-100 in point one second.”

“And with Buddy there he knows. He’ll lick my face, climb on, paw at me, anything to try and get me out of that,” Johnson told says of Buddy’s influence on his life.

Right now, House Resolution, 3103, The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act, or PAWS, is stalled in Washington. This is the second time a bipartisan bill like this has been introduced.

If it is passed, veterans diagnosed with PTSD would be given $25,000 toward a service dog. That money would be allocated by The Department of Veterans Affairs.

The bill has bipartisan support. Some believe a major challenge for this bill is who will set the standard for training the service dogs.

The PAWS Act: Service dogs help veterans in battle with PTSD

Johnson believes it would save lives. While Johnson says he has never contemplated suicide, he recently lost a friend and veteran who took his own life.

“I do see the positivity and you know; I’m not going to say there’s a cure, but there’s help! There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Johnson said.

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