A Hero's Best Friend
My name is Frank Torres and I am a retired Staff Sergeant from the United States Army. I served in the armed forces for nearly a decade. Over the course of my years as a Combat Medic Specialist, I have deployed to numerous countries in support of the overall war on terror. I was medically retired in 2016 due to some mental health and physical issues. These issues prevented me from being able to continue my service; therefore, causing me to have leave the military and move on to the civilian sector.
As I was starting my transition from military to civilian life, I was given a plethora of resources to help me along and to try and live as normal of a life as possible. But with PTSD, physical pain, and other mental health issues, this was going to be something that was incredibly difficult for me to do on my own. After discussing it with my primary care provider, we came to the conclusion that I would benefit from a service dog. I filled out the application and also got a letter from my primary care provider and sent everything in. After some time, I was notified of a dog that would be a great fit for me. His name was Baxter and he was a Great Pyrenees/Border Collie mix. I fell in love with him from the pictures and when I came face to face with him, that love grew beyond words.
Angel Canines & Wounded Warriors (aka Mercy Medical Angels) played such an important role in getting me to San Antonio from Alaska in order to meet my companion. As I was transitioning from the military, money was tight because I was not actively in school receiving my education benefits from the Veteran Affairs and I did not have a full-time job at the time yet. Mercy Medical Angels completely covered the cost. Had they not, I would never have had the opportunity to meet Baxter and my service animal needs would never have been met. I am grateful for this organization for all they have done to get veterans paired up with service dogs.
I had Baxter for just under five years. Baxter helped me in so many ways and he got me through some of the darkest times of my life. When I exited the military, I was completely lost. I had no idea what was going on, my life went from purpose and structure every single day to literally nothing in the blink of an eye. Baxter was there with me the whole time. Before him, I would not leave my apartment, I became deeply depressed, and I even turned to alcohol to try and get through life as much as I could. Baxter gave me a sense of purpose, he watched after me, and he provided with the confidence and comfort needed in order to achieve my goals in life. Baxter allowed me to enroll in classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the Fall of 2016 and Spring of 2017. He went to classes with me everyday and he was by my side nonstop. I was able to attend my classes and I was able to focus and study well because I knew he had my back. Because of this, I finished those two semesters with an overall GPA of a 3.5. I made Dean's List both of those semesters.
Baxter was even recognized and received a certificate of completion and was named an Honorary Panther. Baxter and I were honored and we were able to do a graduation caravan in which we got to simulate walking across the stage to receive our diplomas. Baxter was loved by everyone and anyone he met. He was and still is truly loved by me.
Everything that Angel Canines & Wounded Warriors (aka Mercy Medical Angels) does is so essential for our way of life. Service dogs are companions, best friends, and most importantly they are family. The things we achieved together are more than a lot of people achieve in their lifetime.
US Army (SSG Ret)