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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's hard to imagine staying in your house for four years. Four long years. But Sheri Martinez says PTSD just pulled the life out of her and she couldn't even open the front door.

Martinez served our country as a marine and as a member of the Army. She was 40 years old when she volunteered to go to Iraq. She says she was working on her MBA and going full steam, but when she came home from Iraq she "couldn't get off the couch."

Martinez was living in Connecticut and discovered she could order groceries and clothes online. She became isolated and suicidal.

She hit "rock bottom." Martinez says she would wonder in the morning if she'd ever see the evening.

Nights and days mixed together. Insomnia and frantic episodes of panic attacks created a terrible schedule of too much sleep and no sleep at all.

Finally, she went on the Internet and found K9s for Warriors, a non-profit based in Ponte Vedra.

She left a voice mail: "I need you to help me save my life."

Shari Duval, K9s for Warriors' founder, kept in contact with Martinez. She came to the First Coast and entered the program, which trains mostly rescue dogs to help veterans with PTSD 24 hours a day as constant companions.

Martinez has a best friend now, Lola. Martinez says, "Lola saved my life."

She says, as a veteran with PTSD, having someone come up behind her takes her by surprise and almost makes her "jump out" of her skin.

No surprises. No panic attacks, and enough comfort to allow Martinez to go to Publix and the beach. She loves the beach, and with Lola, she can enjoy the peace and calm without high anxiety.Lola, however, follows the special commands she learned at K9s for Warriors. One word, "cover," puts Lola into a buffer position squarely against Martinez's leg.

Martinez says she was taking 27 different medications. Since Lola she doesn't need her anxiety pills.

"Lola gave me back my freedom and my independence," Martinez explains.

Now Martinez volunteers at K9s for Warriors.

If you'd like to donate to Operation Orion/K9s for Warriors here's the link: http://k9sforwarriors.donorpages.com/MyEvent/FCNOperationOrion/

The Weaver Foundation will double whatever you donate.

If you'd like to have a fundraiser, Jeannie Blaylock would love to feature your work on the news. Just email her: jblaylock@firstcoastnews.com

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