Veterans reunite with service dogs at Patriot PAWS graduation

(ROCKWALL, TX – Nov. 18, 2016) Actions speak louder than words, particularly when it comes to honoring those who have sacrificed to serve our country. Perhaps no one understands this better than the folks at Patriot PAWS, who celebrated the graduation of five veterans and their service dogs on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Patriot PAWS celebrated the graduation of five veterans and their service dogs on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. From left to right: Jay Springstead, U.S. Army, with service dog Tex; Ricky Smiddy, U.S. Navy, with service dog Wilson; Alice Crosby, U.S. Army, with service dog Logan; Justin Ross, U.S. Army, with service dog Fuzzy; Jeremey Webb, U.S. Air Force, with service dog Reckless.

U.S. Army Veterans Alice Crosby, Justin Ross and Jay Springstead, along with U.S. Navy Veteran Ricky Smiddy and U.S. Air Force Veteran Jeremy Webb, spent the week prior to graduation working alongside Patriot PAWS trainers and service dogs before choosing their new furry companion for life, or rather, having the dogs choose them.

Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, a Rockwall based 501(c)3 non-profit began in 2006 to help veterans who suffered injuries while protecting our freedom. Since its inception, Patriot PAWS has placed over 100 dogs with disabled veterans.

Congressman John Ratcliffe was welcomed as the honorary guest speaker at the Patriot PAWS graduation ceremony on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. “Patriot PAWS really epitomizes the belief that the best way to honor our veterans’ service to our country is through our service back to them,” Ratcliffe said.

“It isn’t enough to say it – we need to be it. We need to be thankful, we need to be grateful, we need to be appreciative, and no one exemplifies that better than the folks with Patriot PAWS,” said Congressman John Ratcliffe, guest speaker at the graduation ceremony. “Our veterans, our heroes, deserve to know that their sacrifice will not be forgotten, and for 10 years the good folks here at Patriot PAWS have strived day in and day out to fulfill their motto, serving those who served by training and providing service dogs at no cost.”

Patriot PAWS trainers applaud the graduating veterans and service dogs during the graduation ceremony on Friday, Nov. 11.

Jerry Owens, a U.S. Air Force veteran who used to raise puppies before joining Patriot PAWS a as a trainer a few years ago, said he enjoys the opportunity the organization has provided him to give back to fellow veterans.

“This is my way of giving back to those veterans who are having so many problems and have lost so much,” Owens said. “It means the world to me that I can help these guys get back to semi-normal again.”

Five-year Patriot PAWS trainer Sharon Terrobona said working with the veterans and service dogs offers a life-changing experience not only for the veterans but for the trainers as well. “It not only has changed their life but it changes our life too, to be able to be involved in something greater than yourself.”

Patriot PAWS staff and trainers join graduating veterans and their service dogs for a special luncheon hosted by Dodie’s Cajun Diner at The Harbor on Thursday, Nov. 10. The luncheon concluded a week's full of fun outings between the veterans and their service dogs.

Patriot PAWS graduate Alice Crosby, who served six years in the Army as a chaplain assistant and suffers from PTSD, has been able to enjoy a little peace of mind thanks to her service dog Logan. “Some bad things happened during my time in the service, but Mr. Logan is my silver lining. He’s helping me sleep at night. Everything’s already so much better.”

To learn more about Patriot PAWS Service Dogs, visit their website

U.S. Air Force Veteran Jeremey Webb accepts his graduation certificate alongside his service dog Reckless.
U.S. Army Veteran Justin Ross greets his service dog Fuzzy at graduation.
U.S. Army Veteran Alice Crosby and her service dog Logan accept their graduation certificate.
U.S. Navy veteran Ricky Smiddy (far right) meets his service dog Wilson at graduation.
U.S. Army Veteran and longtime Patriot PAWS trainer Jay Springstead addresses the audience after accepting his graduation certificate at the ceremony on Friday, Nov. 11. Springstead began volunteering at Patriot PAWS after his youngest son, also an Army veteran, took his own life. “Coming here to volunteer at Patriot PAWS after my youngest son took his life, it saved my life. I want to say thank you for all who came out today and say how grateful I am for such a wonderful organization.”

Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. 

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