MARINE CORPS BASE KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (9/27/2011) - U.S. Marines assigned to Wounded Warriors Battalion West, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay Hawaii enjoyed a stress free day with the help of service dogs from Hawaii Fi-Do, Sept. 23.
Hawaii Fi Do is a volunteer organization that provides service or pet therapy dogs to those in need and most recently that has been the Wounded Warriors at MCBH Kaneohe Bay.
The Marines suffer from a wide variety of injuries either physical or mental after deployments in Afghanistan and as part of their healing process, they meet with the dogs every Friday for a few hours.
Marines from the Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, watch as Mary Conklin rewards her dog Mai Tai with a treat during a dog training session, Sept. 23, 2011. The Marines learn to train the dogs and the dogs help relax the Marines and put them in good spirits as they recover from injuries either mental or physical that they acquired during deployments to Afghanistan. Photo by USMC Master Sgt. Cohen Young
According to Hawaii Fi Do Owner, Susan Luehrs, the time the Marines spend caring and training for the dogs take their minds off of their immediate problems, which is an important part of the program.
“Many of these young Marines have been withdrawn and quiet, but spending time with the dogs gives them someone to speak to or spend time with,” said Luehrs. “This experience gets them out and being social with others.”
“Before my dog Fin, I was always depressed and in my room, but now I'm always out,” said Cpl. Daniel Carter, a native of Temecula, Calif.
Some of the Wounded Warriors were hesitant at first, but after a few weeks, the dogs were greatly appreciated.
“When I first started this, I wondered how this would help me,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew Childress, a native of Shorewood, Minn. “Now, I look forward to seeing one of these dogs every Friday because ever since I got blown up in Afghanistan, my time with them is the only thing that relaxes me.”
Luehrs, a former special education teacher noticed how relax and social her former students were when playing with dogs once a week and she thought to apply that to military veterans returning from deployments and has been working with the Marines and the U.S. Army for the last two years.
Some of the dogs actually live with the Marines and are a part of each other's daily life.
“The dogs help the individuals by retrieving their medicine or slippers when they can't move or in some cases right there to wake them up during a nightmare or there for a lick on the face after the nightmare," added Luehrs.
This simple one week program has helped mend the spirit of these Marines by man's best friend showing a little love.
“It's the unconditional love of the dogs that makes this all possible,” added Luehrs. “They don't care what color you are, if you can read or if you have missing limbs, they just want that touch and are eager to give that back.”