PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — A 73-year-old man became the first-ever Vietnam War veteran to graduate from K9s For Warriors Thursday.
David Wood along with his new service dog Loose was also the 700th veteran to graduate from the program.
Four other Warriors participated at the November graduation.
“This milestone tells us, not only is our program working, but it’s desperately needed. Since we started ten years ago, we’ve served more than 700 Warriors struggling with invisible wounds of war,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s For Warriors. “Lt. Col. Wood’s story shows us veterans of all eras can find hope again with a Service Dog.”
Wood shattered his left leg on May 6, 1968, during a horrific firefight in Vietnam. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Infantrymen's Badge for his sacrifice.
Wood suffered in silence from PTSD for decades following 28 years of active service in the Army. Desperate for an alternative solution to combat his PTSD symptoms, Wood turned to K9s For Warriors.
“Coming to K9s For Warriors and receiving Loose has been the best experience of my life,” exclaimed Wood.
His service dog Loose is named after another Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient John Loosen. Loosen was an advocate for veterans and instrumental in raising funds for K9s For Warriors over the years. He passed away in early 2021, the organization said.
“I experienced a lot of emptiness over the last five years,” explained Wood. “I was within the VA system seeking therapy and medication. I was looking for an alternative, and that alternative led me to exploring dogs first. I then discovered the world of Service Dogs. I went online and found K9s For Warriors, and I immediately sensed it was genuine.”
During the November graduation, Stryker Corporation, longtime supporter of K9s For Warriors, presented a $55,000 donation from the proceeds of their MiLB “Own the Walk” campaign.
The Dogtopia Foundation also supported the training and care of a graduating Service Dog as part of the “Fetch it Forward” initiative.