Mizzou ROTC cadets help veterans with PTSD

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COLUMBIA - University of Missouri ROTC cadets are training service dogs to help veterans coping with post traumatic stress disorder. 

The cadets are a part of a study by the MU's Research Center for Human Interaction. Director of the Research Center Dr. Rebecca Johnson said the study is mostly looking at the handlers. 

"This is the first time that ROTC cadets have been training the dogs in our program," Johnson said. "We are particularly excited about it because they are very dedicated very committed, very disciplined, and they are also quite thrilled to help someone who is a comrade, who is a veteran."

From class to military training, the service dogs never leave cadets' sides. In addition to living with a dog full time, cadets attend two training sessions per week with their service dog.

The coordinator of cadets, Lauren Jerie said cadets learn how to teach dogs special skills to match their veterans needs. 

"If a veteran is out a public and sitting down in a chair and you need the dog to tuck underneath, we have taught those commands," Jerie said. "My dog also knows how to push buttons and pick up keys or just comfort someone too."

Ali Abdulaziz, another cadet in the service dog program, said he is sad to say goodbye to his service dog Max, but knows it is for a good cause.

"When I first found out Max got paired up with a veteran I was pretty sad at first," Abdulaziz said. "But when I met his veteran, he described everything he has been through, and I thought Max should really help this guy out."

John Hopson, a veteran matched with Cadet Jerie's service dog, said he is excited to have a friend to help him be a part of the community again.

"We kind of isolate. We miss the military. We don't have our battle buddies with us," Hopson said. "I think just providing that service animal, that dog, kind of eases that veteran back into society."

John Karl, a veteran who disliked leaving his house alone, now serves as a service dog training volunteer. He said he wants to help other veterans like himself get back their lives. 

"A lot of these veterans have paid a terrible price and we owe them so much. At the very least owe them the tools IE the dog to get back out and be a part of our society again. To be back out and contributing again," Karl said. "They all want to do it and I think this allows them the opportunity to gain some of the confidence and the ability to get out in the community the same way it did for me."

This year the service dog program is funded by the Lil' Red Foundation. Volunteers hope to receive another grant to continue the program next year. 

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