Luke and K-9 Freya
My name is Luke and I am a Marine Corps veteran and a Police Officer. I grew up in Minnesota in a suburb of the Twin Cities and joined the Marine Corps out of high school as a Military Police Officer. After boot camp, I married my high school sweetheart and she moved out with me to Virginia where I was stationed as a member of the White House Military Office. It was a stressful job but afforded me many experiences and opportunities that I would never of had otherwise. After serving 5 years on active duty my wife and I moved back to MN in 2012 to be closer to family and had our first daughter while I was going to school and working towards obtaining my MN Post license to become a Police Officer.
I was eventually hired by a department in Southeast MN and have been blessed to work there for the past 5 years. Being a Police Officer is my dream job and I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. My wife and I had a second daughter shortly after buying our first house and life was perfect. In 2019, I began having medical issues and had to take a lot of sick days. After dealing with countless visits to doctors and specialists I was feeling overwhelmed and in 2021, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. I had thought being in the Marines made me “tough” enough to handle anything on my own but I quickly realized I needed help and sought therapy.
Through hard work and the help of my support system, I was able to return to working patrol and do the job I love. I thought things were finally looking up but then I suddenly found myself involved in a critical incident with an infant death that severely impacted my mental health. I was diagnosed with depression and struggled to not only do my job but to be a good husband and father at home. I continue to have good days and bad days but there is light at the end of the tunnel and Soldier’s 6 has been a big part of that. To those of you who donate and support making this a reality, it really means so much, thank you.
Leigh and K-9 Louie
My journey began on a small family farm in rural southeastern Wisconsin. My Father was my best friend and my greatest role model. He was strong, determined and gave everything of himself to his’ family. He taught me the values of hard work, discipline and responsibility. He served over 25 years in the US Army and Wisconsin National Guard. His’ service to this country and the sacrifices he made inspired me in my late teenage years to join the military. I wanted to be like him and make my family proud. I joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard on April 1, 2006. It still is one of the most important and influential moments in my life and I am forever grateful that my Father inspired me to take the oath to serve my country.
At the time I joined, I was studying environmental law enforcement at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Naturally, I was adamant on becoming a Security Forces Airman. I wanted to choose a career field that challenged me physically, mentally and allowed me to push the limits of what “a girl” could do. I left for basic training in June of 2006 and headed for Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. The first night was my make-it-or-break-it moment. I lied awake in my bunk staring at the cold, dark ceiling wondering if I had made the right decision. I fought through those tears and made a promise to myself that night to be strong, courageous and accept the mission ahead of me. Over the course of 6 weeks, I became dorm chief (head of my training flight) and excelled as a leader and Airman. Physically it was demanding. Mentally it was exhausting. But it was so worth it. The transformation that occurred during those 6 weeks set the course for much of the rest of my life. Seeing my Father’s face at graduation made me proud to be his’ daughter. We shared a bond now that was mostly unspoken, but completely understood. There is no price for that.
I continued onto my specialty training which happened to be right at Lackland AFB. The Security Forces Training Squadron was my home for the next 13 weeks and I was underprepared for what came next. The training was physically demanding and the days were long. I learned the basic principles of being a Security Forces Airman. I soon learned that this career wasn’t solely about policing but rather encompassed flight line security, community policing and tactical war-time training for deployment to the Middle East. Tactical leadership and training was a part of the job I enjoyed the most until I decided to retrain into a specialty AFSC known as Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM). I excelled at marksmanship and enjoyed being on the firing line, so naturally becoming a weapons instructor was a good fit for me. I was the first female CATM instructor that the 115 Security Forces Squadron ever had. I spent countless hours in the classroom and on the firing line with students preparing for deployment and completing annual training requirements. I strived to be a conduit for other women who felt intimidated or uneasy being in the presence of a firearm or a male instructor. It was a very special role that I filled within the core group of CATM instructors and I enjoyed every single minute of it. In 2009, I was injured during pre-deployment qualification training at Hardwoods Range in Wisconsin. I was instructing a student on the use of their M203 sighting system and within seconds, the student fired their weapon. I took a 40-mm grenade round to my right hand and almost lost 2 of my fingers that day. Thankfully, with the help of a plastic surgeon, my fingers are still attached to my body with limited function and feeling. I will never forget that moment as I carry the scars on my hands as a physical reminder of what happened that day. Within a few years after that incident, I decided to end my enlistment and focus forging my future as a professional forester in Northern Wisconsin.
Towards the end of my technical training at Lackland AFB, I was sexually assaulted and raped by two men. The most sacred parts of myself were taken away from me and I can never get them back. I never reported the incident due to fear of retaliation. It was my secret for 15 years. This moment profoundly impacted every aspect of my life in ways as it lied deep beneath the surface manifesting in ways I never thought possible. It became impossible to have a healthy relationship with a man. It was even more impossible to have a healthy relationship with myself. I dove into a life filled with obsessive, compulsive and destructive behaviors that endangered my well being and my sense of self. I used compulsive over exercising as a tool to numb out and escape. I restricted food in hopes of gaining control of my an out of control situation. I began using men to feel some sort of revenge for what those two men did to me that night in Texas. My behaviors were self-destructive and only when my marriage of 3 years ended in divorce did I realize that I had hit “rock bottom”. I ruined the life of another human being due to my inability to cope with such a traumatic experience in a health way. I vowed from that day forward to change the way I lived my life and I sought help. I have been working with mental health professionals since 2014 to deal with my depression, anxiety, disordered eating, obsessive compulsive disorder and most recently PTSD.
After 15 years I found the courage and strength to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to tell my story to my therapist. This is the most demanding, difficult but rewarding work I have ever done with a mental health provider. It is a daily struggle and my partner has become my battle buddy when combating PTSD. He and I are participating in a research program sponsored by the Veterans Administration. They are developing ways to help couples face PTSD together. The program has helped me realize how deep seeded this trauma is in my life and how it effects even the simplest daily interaction I have with people and the world around me. It has brought strength to my relationship with my partner as we work together to face my PTSD and learn ways to live with it. The work is never done. The memories are real. Every day is a new mountain to climb, but with the support I have around me, I know that life can be so much more. It’s a life worth living.
Sometimes, we get a recipient, and it is important to them to share their story, yet having their name and pictures out there makes them a little uncomfortable. We never want someone to not want a dog because they fear their name being out there and we would never put someone through more than they already have been through because of their sacrifices for our country. Thus we are very honored to have the privilege of introducing you to this next recipient. He has fought for our freedom and now it is time we show him he is not alone. He was gifted one the 3 new pups. He has named this beautiful little girl Kaya. Please join us in welcoming little K9 Kaya and her battle buddy to the Soldier's 6 family! May they never feel alone again. Special thank you once again to Sue. She has helped to heal 3 heroes with her beautiful donations of puppies.
Below is his bio:
I served on active duty as an infantryman in the US Army deploying to Afghanistan twice between the years of 2005 and 2011. After I got out of the military, I spent a few years battling myself, moving around, and not feeling a purpose in life.
I moved to Minnesota a few years ago after the loss of my previous dog to try and be closer to my family. I recently purchased a home and have been spending too much time alone and my family and friends have noticed me slipping into old, bad habits that were seen when I first got out of the military.
My family knew the importance my previous dog had in my life and they recommended Soldier6 to me in order to get myself back on track for good.
James and K-9 Mya
Hi, my name is James Hamilton, and I have been in the army for 16 years and counting. I joined in 2006 when I realized college was not the right fit for me. I grew up in a military family; my dad was a major for the army for 21 years. I decided the discipline and structure were the right fit for me; thus, I embarked on my army career.
I first joined the National Guard and was part of the charlie company 834th ASB (Red Bulls). My MOS was 25 Bravo. My first deployment was in 2008-2009 to Iraq. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect entering into a war zone. This deployment, overall, was a typical deployment. I had some scary experiences, but because I never really left my base, it was better than it could have been.
I went to active duty in 2009, at Fort Bliss Texas Delta company 125th BSB attached 1-13th CAV. I then switched my MOS to 92 fox. I was deployed in 2011/2012 to Afghanistan, and unlike my last deployment, this one was rough. As a fueler in the army being deployed, I saw a lot more action and saw things no one should have to. To this day, I suffer from PTSD from this deployment. Something as innocent as a soccer ball had to be questioned and feared over there.
In January 2013, I left active duty and joined the reserves in which I still reside. I'm currently with the Great Lake Command, and I switched back to my original MOS as a 25 Bravo. I have received the soldier of the year reward, ARCOM, and army achievement medals. I am proud to be a soldier and to serve our country.
I married my wife in 2013 and welcomed a son in 2016 and a daughter in 2020. I always thought that with time, my anxiety and PTSD would fade, but that's not the case. It's hard to tell people you need help and that you're having a hard time with life dealing with things from deployment. For my civilian job, I am an over the road trucker, which leaves me to be alone at night and no one around to help me cope. My hope with this service dog is that I will have a battle buddy to help me deal with everyday life.
Tim and K-9 Mia
Hey there, my name is Tim Schroeder and I am a sergeant with Waseca Police Department. I have been a police officer for 24yrs, 23 of them with Waseca PD.
Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be an officer. My father was a paramedic and my grandfather a firefighter, so I knew I wanted to serve to community in my own way.
The life of an officer is not an easy one by any means. Many of us deal with the unthinkable and the lowest of the low, often finding it hard to see the good on the darkest of days. We deal with continuous trauma, which is often hard to reconcile within ourselves.
Waseca is a small, rural community and we often know those we serve and come in contact with. A few incidents from my experience stand out and will forever stick with me & have changed my life. The first that comes to mind is a deadly home invasion of a family that happened on Feb 3rd, 2007, and is an image I cannot unsee. On Jan 6th, 2019, I was shot at and witnessed one of my other three partners that night take a bullet to the head. Both of these have left me with the struggles of flashbacks, wondering if I did enough, did I fail my community & partners, survivor’s guilt and questioning my place as an officer and a person. I also feel I have placed a lot on my family to understand.
Having been a K9 officer, I know firsthand what a wonderful partner a dog makes. I am grateful to Soldiers 6 for recognizing a need for those in law enforcement to have the unconditional love of a dog to help with filling in those missing pieces. I recently suffered a mild heart attack and believe the gift of Mia will not only help heal my heart but also give me the motivation I need to keep moving in this crazy thing called life.
Thank you to all who serve and to those whom make this a possibility.
Luis and K-9 Valens
We welcome into our Soldiers 6 family a hero who has been through enough and wishes to remain a bit anonymous, and we absolutely respect that. He has given his all to his community, and tonight, he gets to snuggle and play with his new battle buddy, Valens. K9 Valens is special in so many ways, but his battle buddy is dedicating him to Officer Ella French(she is pictured below). Officer French killed in the line of duty this past August after a car she and her partner pulled over fired on the them. Ella tragically lost her life, and her partners will forever be changed. Special thank you to Coco's Heart Dog Rescue. We appreciate the care for our recipients and help in placing these 4 legged heroes with their new handlers.
Hello, my name is Luis and I am originally from a suburb of Chicago, Illinois called Carpentersville. I grew up there until 2007 when I moved to Minnesota to be with my now wife. My wife and I had two beautiful daughters.
It was my childhood dream of mine to become a police officer. In 2012 that dream came true and I became a police officer for one of the biggest departments in the State of Minnesota. During my service for this police department I saw a lot of events that normal civilians don’t see. I responded to shootings, stabbings, and people not breathing calls. Also I had to perform CPR on adults and on infants. The infants that I performed CPR on did not survive. This crushed me a lot seeing infants die. I also was involved in a squad accident where my partner and I were T-Boned by a drunk driver. Due to this accident I had a pulmonary embolism which is a blood clot that was found in my lungs. I was told by the doctor that if I had gone to sleep that morning after my shift my wife would have been found to be deceased because the blood clot was traveling up to my heart. And if the blood clot would have reached my heart it would have stopped it and I would have died. Due to me being new to the job I just brushed it off and continued to work. I didn’t realize that it was affecting me but it was because I wanted to be superman.
Fast forward to 2020 I was still a police officer for the same city where it all started. We all know what happened that year. I was detailed to work the unrest/riots. There we had stuff thrown at us, people shooting guns at us, shooting fireworks at us and getting verbally abused.
I finished working the riots and that was the first time I knew something was wrong with me. I was very paranoid, not wanting to stop for red lights and thought people were following me home. I knew that I had to get professional help. When I got professional help I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. I had to medically retire from my childhood dream.
Having PTSD, anxiety and depression I feel like I can not go into any store because I always think that I am going to get ambushed or someone is going to recognize me. So I stay home for the most part and not go out.
I want a battle buddy to help me get out more and feel calmer at home and in the stores.
Matt and K-9 Delta
My name is Matt, I served in the army from 2011-2014. I was OEF 11-12 with the 172nd brigade, I experienced my first traumatic event when we found some older AT-4 launchers and were told to use them for training. During this time one of my friends was up to fire his and there was a rupture in the tube causing the weapon to detonate within the tube when fired. My friend was killed immediately. During the course of the next few years and after my out process I continued to use alcohol to mask the pain. I didn't want to show any weakness and did I feel I could trust anyone to be able to reach out for help. After my family who was very supportive told me and assisted in me to find the help I needed through the VA. Still having a few struggles, I have gone back to alcohol and continuing to shut down. I am currently working on getting better but then my mother found soldiers6 and told me to reach out. I feel this will be by far one of the best solutions to helping me. I strongly support this program and feel there needs to be more out there like soldiers6.
Miguel and K-9 Raya
My name is Miguel Guadalajara, and boy, have I had a such the life. After high school, I really did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I was not ready for college and I did not want to work at a dead-end job. So, in 1997, I joined the Marine Corps instead. What an experience I had. In my first four years I lived in California and traveled around the world, but when the nation was attacked, I knew things were about to change. In September 10, 2004, my Battalion and I were sent to Fallujah Iraq. We took part in Operation Phantom Fury, the taking of Fallujah. What an experience to say the least. I was in theater (Iraq) until April 2005. When I got back to the states, I had orders to Recruiting duty in Minnesota, this would be my second tour of recruiting duty.
In February 2009, I made the hardest decision in my life (at this time) and I left the Marine Corps and decided to start a new chapter of my life and follow my childhood dreams. So, I went to school and obtained my degree in criminal justice and passed the Minnesota post-test. Soon after, I was hired as a Police Officer on October 26, 2012.
I enjoyed my time as a police office, and loved everything about it. But my career was stopped short and again, I had to make the hardest decision in my life, to choose between my career or mental health. I choose my mental health, for the wellbeing of me and my family.
I reached out to Soldiers 6 and told them my story. I was lucky to be matched with a beautiful German Shepard named Raya. Thank you for the opportunity to have a companion through this horrible struggle I am going though.
Aimee and K-9 Carl
My name is Aimee. I was born in South Dakota and joined the Army out of high school. I’ve been serving for the last 20 years and am preparing for retirement. I moved to Minnesota in 2004 and after spending time away for deployments and military duty have been here.
During my service I was sexually assaulted while deployed to the Philippines. That event scarred me. I never sought help, thinking that my emotional state was due to depression which I’ve had my entire life. That event and the significant childhood trauma that had not been addressed has affected my ability to function. Adding on to that, during my deployment to Afghanistan I saw things that scared me, gave me nightmares, and brought up all the past traumas.
I have been trying to manage my pain with a variety of medications and half-assed therapy. It’s only recently, in the last two years, that I’ve been able to talk about my experiences honestly. I have major depressive disorder, I suffer from panic attacks and severe anxiety, insomnia, and was recently diagnosed with PTSD and another mental illness.
In a particularly bad moment I reached out to a good friend to express my despair and he told me about Soldiers6. He told me how the organization has helped his family and urged me to reach out. I never thought I would be able to get a service dog, I’d thought about it but felt there were others who needed them more.
So I reached out. Dana contacted me the same day and we scheduled a call with Ed the next day! They were so kind and made me feel like this was a real option for me. It’s a big step for me to admit I need help, and an even bigger deal to ask for it. I have to do something though, I want to enjoy my life and be the best mom I can be, because, frankly, I haven’t been doing either for a very long time. I’m hoping that with the support of a service dog and this wonderful organization, plus therapy, I can begin to heal.
Dan and K-9 Maggie
Sergeant Dan Wulff was born in Thailand, grew up in Laos, and moved to Minnesota when he was 10 years old. He graduated from the University of Minnesota, and was commissioned as an Army officer. He served in Germany and in the Army Reserve in Minnesota, attaining the rank of Captain. After completing the active duty part of his service, he joined the Minneapolis Police Department, and worked Patrol in the 4th Precinct, Gang Unit, Homicide, Juvenile Unit, and Bomb Squad.
In 2005, while serving as the Bomb Squad Commander, Dan was injured by a blast during a training exercise. He was following all of the safety protocols that were in place at the time, but the protocols were wrong. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the doctors said it was a miracle that he survived. Dan has been unable to work since his injury, but has focused on reaching out to other injured law enforcement officers to help them learn how to cope with their new normal.
Dan’s wife, Wendy, is his caregiver and best friend, and helped found the Minnesota Association for Injured Peace Officers. They have 3 adult sons, 2 daughters in law, and 2 grandsons. Dan and Wendy have become close friends with Maggie and her K9, Bailey. Dan saw how much Bailey helps Maggie, and even helps Dan to function better in environments where sensory overload is a factor. He is looking forward to welcoming and bonding with his own service dog from Soldiers 6.
Gary and K-9 Glory
Glory and Gary. Gary is a recently medically retired police officer. He worked for over 17 years for our town and 21 total years in law enforcement. When Gary took his uniform off December 23 2019 we didn’t know that he would not ever put it back on again. He was determined to get well and that is what started a whirlwind of time we had from doctors, psychologist, treatment, hospitalization, lawyers and more. I am glad he received the help he needed and is continuing to receive that help. He was saved by Grace the night it was too much and he didn’t want to live anymore, his cup overflowed. Grace brought him to a place where he could ask for help. He is now at 21 months of sobriety and he continues healing with his doctors and psychiatrist help. He has overcome many struggles in the last couple years and we are grateful for his accomplishments. Glory has an older pup brother Gunny. Gunny has been an important part of Gary’s recovery. Gary has brought Gunny pretty much where ever he goes. He has said that there are times that being accountable to his dog is part of his duty to keep pushing towards getting well. Gunny has taken on his new role as Gary’s buddy. It has been interesting watching the two interact and seeing the relationship between these two, Gunny notices Gary’s stress and Gary has picked up on Gunny’s cues. Gunny isn’t trained as a therapy or service dog but he has really fallen into the role well. With this we have realized how much benefit a service dog would be for Gary. Gunny is getting older, slowing down and can’t do as much as he used to so we are looking forward to Glory stepping into this role. Glory is loving our small hobby farm. There is plenty of room here for her to run, play and terrorize the chickens. We feel blessed to have this opportunity to have Glory as part of our family. We are so thankful for the support of Invisible Wounds Project and Soldiers 6.
Michael and K-9 Xandra
My name is Michael Westerfield, I was born and raised by my parents in Easton, MD and after I graduated from high school, I joined the navy. I had met the mother of my two children, who are amazing boys that are my whole world. I served 10 years in the navy before I injured my back, I had done two deployments. I have seen some amazing places in the world and along those I was a part of the Haiti Relief and was one of the first Navy ships out there.
I moved here to Minnesota due to my ex was from here to be close to her family. I had a very hard time adjusting and became very closed off. My boys were the ones who helped me see more clearly and what I needed to do, which was to give them a better life. I started to go to college to better myself and it also helped me with becoming social again. Shortly after starting college, it was hard being around the civilian side so I reached out and joined the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). They helped me to get back in to the civilian world and every step of the way. Without me joining the WWP I would have never have meet some of the amazing service members that I know can call friends, and one in, Tim Diamond, who pointed me to here for help, Soldiers 6.
I knew with everything medically and mentally going on in my life I need help and you can not always get ahold of someone. Being able to have a K-9 by my side 24/7 I know that I will have someone in my corner even in my darkest hour. Everyone needs someone to watch there 6 and that is why this program is so beneficial. Between having a K-9, my kids (when I get them), friends, and family I know I will never have to go through a dark time again. Thank you so much Soldier 6 for making this all possibly for all of us.
Patrick and K-9 LEO
My name is Patrick Nickle, I am a 26-year veteran of both active duty in the Marine Corps and reservist in the Army. I spent 13 years enlisted and 13 years as an officer with 3 deployments. Like many service members, I have had many friends who passed due to external injuries but more who have passed because of the demons they face after serving their country.
I have also been a Police Officer for 18 years and within the 18 years, I was on a part-time SWAT team. I have been on numerous callouts at all hours of the day and night. I started off on the entry team, cross leveled to sniper and promoted to the Commander rank. I am also a street supervisor who has had to deal with some of the worst calls imaginable which is to tell parents their loved one died in an accident, or your family member took his life.
I am no different from the next guy who has had to deal with some tragic situations whether overseas or on the streets. These situations take a toll on our mental health and before you know it, you’re contemplating life and if it is worth living. You become reckless in your actions by confronting people for simple things knowing damn well they’re not why you’re in pain.
I may or may not have gone through some of this but what I can tell you is after getting involved in a road rage incident with my young son in the car, it was time to get help. I sought out help through the VA, but they can only help so much.
Just when I thought things were turning around, I had a house fire and lost everything which included my family dog. I was devastated, depressed, and found myself in a funk. It was at this point I was contacted by Ed who offered a therapy dog which I accepted without hesitation.
My puppy, Leo, is a golden retriever/ Labrador mix. He is 9 weeks old and has been nothing shy of amazing. I have only had him a few days at this point, but Leo has been a light, he is such a loving, caring dog who looks up at you with these kind eyes. It’s almost as if he knows and is telling me, I am here now, I got you. Leo is exactly what I needed and I look forward for our future adventures together.
Doug and K-9 Shadow
Hello, though my time in the Marines was very short I am very PROUD of what I had accomplished during my time. I went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego and later headed to Camp Pendleton for infantry training. During my training at Camp Pendleton, I suffered many lower body injuries that ultimately ended my time in the Corps.
After being medically discharged, I struggled to find a purpose, which I coped with on my own through various outlets, none of them I am proud of. I moved up to Minnesota to work with some family members and it wasn’t long after I moved to Minnesota, I met my wife. But I still struggled with depression though I didn’t recognize it as depression at the time. I did not even think there was anything wrong with me mentally until I met a Veteran that introduced me to a lawyer that specializes in Veteran Claims. He started me on a path of recovery through the VA claims process as well as making sure that I attended all required VA medical appointments.
After receiving the needed care and after a few years I found meaningful employment at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even though I continue to deal with depression, I do think my life is on the right track and look forward to this amazing opportunity with Soldiers 6 and the Invisible Wounds Project. I can’t express enough how much this means to me.
Thank you Soldiers 6 and Invisible Wounds Project
Jeff and K-9 Dino
My name is Jeff and I grew up in suburban Minneapolis and in February of 1997 I joined the Army. After basic training I was stationed in Germany and immediately upon my arrival I was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I returned to Germany after my deployment but was again deployed to the Balkan Region, this time to Kosovo. After completing that deployment I returned to Germany and finished the rest of my active duty.
After being discharged from the Army I found employment with a metro county sheriff’s office. It was a natural fit because I enjoyed the same comrdamie in law enforcement that I found in the military. Through the course of my professions I have repeatedly witnessed the worse actions humanity can inflict upon one another and themselves. I now see that constant exposure to that kind of trauma slowly changed me from an easygoing, happy go-lucky guy into being angry, resentful, suspicious of everyone, and prone to dramatic mood swings. After the civil unrest settled down in the summer of 2020 I began mental health counseling again and shortly afterwards I knew I could no long stay employed as a deputy sheriff. After a lot of talk with my wife we made the decision for me to step away from my career in law enforcement.
After leaving law enforcement I have continued my mental health counseling but I still deal with anxiety, depression, and wild mood swings. I look forward to starting this new opportunity with Soldiers 6. I am hopeful that working with a service dog will help lower my anxiety and depression and also help me to get back to enjoying activities that I haven’t in quite some time.
David and K-9 Ragnar
Hello, I am David Sanson. I am originally from California. I joined the United States Army at the start of 2014. I went to Fort Benning where I trained to be an Infantryman. I was assigned to Fort Carson, 4th ID Bravo CO 1-38, Striker Brigade. I came up short on deployment by a week, but I didn't miss out on any training. I went to Penion Canyon, National Training Center and many field weeks, where I started to really build a bond with these men. It was after one field exercise when I experienced my first traumatic event. I began to abuse alcohol, spent my fair share of nights out until 4 am and went to formation still a little drunk. I assumed it was normal, everyone did it. I began to suffer mentally due to this which led me into a spiral. I took my consequences, tried AA, ASAP, and lots of anger management treatments before being generally discharged. I have struggled since to find a coping mechanism that works. I’ve been to too many clinics and treatments with no success; therapy makes me anxious and meds make me sick. After traveling and moving all over trying to find a place to call home, I ended up here in Minnesota, which has actually been the best thing, as a Veteran. I hope to develop a growing bond with Ragnar as we both begin our training with Soldier’s 6. This means so much to me in so many ways. I am grateful to Invisible Wounds Project and Soldier’s 6 for this opportunity and look forward to finally achieving a sense of peace.
Thank you again for this gift.
Trey and K-9 Gunner
Hi, my name is Jimmy. I prefer to be called Trey as I am the third born Jimmy. I was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My dad was stationed there during that time. My Dad continued in the Army and we moved from state to state. I lived in North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Washington and North Dakota.
When I was 17, I decided that I wanted to join the Army and follow in the footsteps of my Dad. I went to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. I went to Airborne school after basic training and then was first stationed at Hohenfels, Germany. I was assigned to A co 1-4 INF. I spent 3 years in Germany while serving two deployments to Afghanistan. After my deployments I was sent back to the U.S. and was then stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was assigned to A co 1-505 PIR. I did one deployment with A co 1-505 PIR to Afghanistan again.
Soon after my deployments I started showing signs of PTSD from my deployments, so it was determined by the Army that started going to therapy. I went through some extensive therapy in the Army. It was then determined that I continue with medical discharge from the Army due to my PTSD. I was discharged in February of 2013.
After discharge, I moved to Minnesota. My wife is from Minnesota, so I moved up to there to be with her, so we could continue to grow our family. We have six amazing kids together. Shortly after the move, I started going to the V.A. for therapy. It was beneficial, but found I needed a change in therapists. Within the past year, I started seeing a different therapist who has helped me in so many ways with my PTSD. She suggested that I look into service dogs to help me with my PTSD, so I started looking around to see what the possibilities were. After an appointment, I was talking to a buddy of mine who gave me the name of Soldier’s 6. He encouraged me to look into this specific organization. I am so glad to have found this organization and my Battle Buddy.
Ben and K-9 Sunny
Hi. My name is Benny Lego. I was a police officer for the City of St. Paul for 14.5 years. I worked security at MOA for 8 years before that. My experiences at the MOA were significant enough to prepare me for my career in law enforcement. Approximately 23 years in law enforcement and related fields.
I was a patrol officer, serving the city’s eastern district for the majority of my time there. I was able to work all districts but the east side was the best for me.
Until it wasn’t. Detachment, isolation at work. Fears of death, and certain imprisonment for doing my job hindered my ability to do my job. Not wanting to share my agonizing struggle with my family, i kept it hidden inside. Almost daily panic attacks starting in 2016 until my last day at work adversely affected my work habits, and performance. I sought the help of our department EAP Sergeant and began seeing a therapist. This helped some and bought me time to improve my severe anxiety and severe depression. But these things became too difficult to overcome.
Now i have a very difficult time leaving the house. Going to stores. And even going into my own kitchen. All of these things and more cause me to have panic attacks.
We were informed of the possibility of having a service dog. At first i thought no way. I didn’t need one. But encouragement from my beautiful and dedicated wife, and my slow recovery convinced me to consider. I spoke with Ed from Soldier’s 6 and we had a very deep and heart to heart talk. I was convinced afterward this would be a huge help for me.
With the help from Soldier’s 6, i got Sunny. He’s currently a 4 month old Cavapoo (King Charles Cavalier/Poodle mix). He has fit right in to our home. I will be enrolling in the service dog training recommended by Soldier’s 6 after some time getting Sunny acclimated to our home.
I’m not done with my journey. I have a long way to go. Soldier’s 6 has become part of it and I am looking forward to this opportunity to help improve my condition and become a contributing member of society once again.
Tim and K-9 TBD
I served in the Marines from July 1989 to July 2011. Through this period I have served from Camp Lejeune to Camp Pendleton to Washington DC. My three combat deployments came at the end of my career. I started out as a truck driver and proceeded on to get training in Logistics. It was one hell of a ride, but all good things must come to an end. I have several deployments all over the world. I have three tours in Iraq at the end of my time in the military.
Since I have retired I have suffered from PTSD AND Depression. It is for the
Timothy J. Diamond
Retired GySgt (E7) USMC
Lorrie and K-9 Daisy
My name is Lorrie. I am 58 and I grew up in Sioux Falls SD. I am married to the love of my life William Branum. I grew up raising and riding horses and working along side my dad on his construction jobs. I participated in all types of sports as well. I guess you could say I worked and played hard.
At 19 I married my first husband and moved to Grand Forks AFB (he joined the Air Force). After 2 kids and 4 years in Grand Forks, he switched services to the Marine Corps. Of to California for 4 years. Then Hawaii and another child. After 12 years of active duty he decided to go Reserve and we returned home to Sioux Falls. There I enrolled in an EMT class and thus began the greatest career of my life.
I began my EMS career in 1997. Became a paramedic in 1999. At that time I was told that since I was 1 of only 3 women medics in Sioux Falls I was going to have to work harder to prove myself. I took the challenge. I grew up learning to work hard and suck it up when it came to struggles and keep going. I applied that to my EMS career.
We divorced shortly after and I became a single mom of 3. I spent the first few years working for Rural/Metro in Sioux Falls and flying Fixed wing for both hospitals(Avera Mckennon and Sioux Valley...now Sanford). I also flew rotor wing for Avera Mckennon (the first female flight medic to fly for them as a medic. Others were medics but became RN's and flew). I loved flying!!! I loved the motto of" do it bigger, better, stronger, smarter and faster than the guys"...and I earned the respect of not only the ambulance staff but Police, Fire and hospital staff as well.
I took a medic job for North Memorial in the Forest Lake region in August 2002. My youngest daughter moved with me. I worked 911 and critical care during my time in Forest Lake. I also flew a year with North Aircare in Princeton. I flew the first flight out of their new base in Princeton. Needless to say trying to balance career and single mom and traveling to Sioux Falls to see my other 2 grown kids was a challenge at times but I love my kids and my career so I pushed through! I had the best time and career ever!!!! I spent the last 10 years of my career as a Field training officer and an educator for our staff on top of working. I was a natural at training and teaching and running calls. EMS was my thing.
At home though, I was struggling with a teenage daughter who was pretty lost. She had battled depression and anxiety for years and I seemed to have to battle providers and hospitals to get her some help. Always a roller coaster ride. She is amazing and really doing well today. During this time I also became a grandma(oldest daughter had first child...she is married and now has 4) and my son was deployed to Iraq with the Army(active duty). 3 deployments with him and a complete medical disabled discharge due to TBI, PTSD and some physical limitations. So extremely proud of him. He has a a wife and 3 kids.
I met the love of my life in May of 2012. William is the best man I have ever known. He has opened a whole new world for me...outdoor girl. ATV's, hunting, guns, fishing, motorcycle and snowmobiling. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect husband for me...well actually I did...I prayed...GOD answered.
In November of 2012, I suffered a severe concussion at home...silly freak accident. I was out of work about 8 weeks. I didn't think I was ready to go back but doctors cleared me. I have said since that injury that I feel my brain never really came back to what it was. I started struggling with making decisions, handling stress and sleeping. I struggled with the bad calls, and would beat myself up when a patient died. I felt I should have done more. It seemed like the calls were becoming more dangerous for us at that time too. More patients assualting us. More threats from patients and on several occasions I was assualted physically. No support from management. Suck it up or get out was what we were being told. Even some of the Police officers or county deputies thought it was no big deal and that it was just part of the job...so they never really helped us out. That felt like such a betrayal. My husband was very angry and frustrated that this was happening. I was having a harder time processing these events and the bad call after bad call. Anxiety and depression started showing up. I felt like life was out of control. By 2015, we(my husband and myself)decided I needed to get out. I needed to retire my medic and find something that would be easier on my mind and body. After 18 years in EMS, I left June 28th 2015. I took a job as a telemetry technician at HCMC monitoring cardiac pts. Easy peasy. I thought I made it out. I thought I made it out unbroken. But I was wrong. In the past 6 years, I have struggled with headaches, stress, anxiety, depression, inability to focus, sleep problems, shame, low self esteem , day dreaming, and some physical injuries. I broke both ankles in the first 2 years off the truck. I have had back surgery to remove a cyst compressing my syatic nerve. I have gained a lot of weight due to anxiety and depression. I now have a CPAP and high blood pressure. I saw a therapist who helped me put in place coping skills, and she talked about my PTSD. I had episodes of flashing back to calls or intrusive thoughts and even thoughts of dying. The therapist was very helpful and I started feeling better. 2020 brought that to a screeching halt. My anxiety and depression slowing increased and I felt so disconnected and unable to focus that I haven't been able to read a book since. Due to the pandemic, my health care was limited and my mental health took a dive. Through it all though, I did my best to smile and say "I'm fine". This past year I can now add fibromyalgia and chronic pain and fatigue to my list. Through all of this my husband has been my rock!! WE also rescued a senior yellow lab named Lucy. She was "our" therapy dog...just naturally. No formal training but she loved us as much as we loved her. Everything was about our girl Lucy. Lucy passed away just short of 14 years this past May 10th. We are devastated. I am struggling.
Yes I know I am grieving. I always will grieve her. But I am struggling and tired...so very tired.
I saw a link for Solders6 on the Northwoods Humane Society Facebook page. I read about their organization...and cried. That’s when I reached out.
Jason and K-9 Arrow
I’m Jason, I am currently a 4 year LEO, I worked in the Federal system for 2 years before making the move to my current agency where I have been for over 2 years. Law Enforcement for me has been a calling since I was a little kid. I could not see myself doing anything else but this amazing job. To me the saying “pick a career and you’ll never work a day in your life” is 100% true. I love the fact that I get to help people more specifically kids that somewhat match with my situation and let them know someone cares about them.
I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, around 9 years old, my parents split and went through a nasty divorce and I was moved around Northern Wisconsin for about a year to a year and a half, never spending more than 6 months at a place. At one point, I was in a shelter for domestic victims and other women of abusive relationships with my mother. During the divorce I was put in therapy and was coached on what to say how to say and when to say stuff. Needless to say it didn’t work.
In high school, my mother and I had a falling out and we disowned each other and I lived with my dad until I moved out when I was 19 and lived with my now wife in college.
From the age of 18 to now, the relationship with my family has been very very rocky at times nonexistent. I could tell when I would start to get “off” but always told myself I did not need help.
For years, I would go through the cycle of being off and not seeking help and then realizing that maybe seeing someone would benefit me but never had the courage to do so. Until this year, 2021. I realized I could not take it anymore; I could not put the fake smile on and pretend everything was ok. I realized that I had been off for a while and it was making me not be the best husband and father I could be. At that point, I knew it needed to change and I had to stop lying to myself and my loved ones.
I found a therapist who specializes in working with First Responders even if the symptoms are not job related. It took me three times to make the appointment, The first two times I would call and hang up and tell myself I’m ok and I don’t need help, knowing that was complete garbage and I called one day and got an appointment set up.
This past week, my wife reached out to Ed and Dana as I was not in a good place I have been battling depression for a few months and it is gotten worse. Every time I would see a glimmer of light at the top, I would get sucked down further.
I finally told my wife and therapist that for some time I have been having thoughts of self-harm and suicide knowing there was no way I would act on the thoughts but they have been increasing and becoming very descriptive, very graphic and never ending. The thoughts consume my daily life and I just go through the motions.
I remember my wife calling me and saying Ed would be calling me and “just talk to him”. I spent almost 2 hours on the phone with Ed, learning about each other and the path that led me to Soldier6 and learning his story and how this amazing organization came about and how it has helped so many people. Ed made it clear that we are not alone and even though there are bad days, there are also good days ahead and that hit home.
I am very thankful and grateful that my wife reached out and put me in connection with this organization and I cannot wait to see where it takes me and start training with my battle buddy.
Kyle and K-9 Hobey
Hi my name is Kyle. I grew up in small town in Iowa and moved to Minnesota when I was 21. That is when I worked multiple different jobs trying to find my calling and the military was a place, I thought I could start a career.
I joined the Minnesota Army National Guard in 2009 as a helicopter engine mechanic. Early 2014, I was selected to become a UH-60 Blackhawk crewchief for a MEDEVAC unit. Late 2014, I went on my first deployment as an engine mechanic and worked in production control in Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
When I returned home from my first deployment, I went to reclass school to become a 15T (UH-60 mechanic). Once I returned from school I began flying as a crewchief for the MEDEVAC company I was assigned to.
In 2017, I performed my first life saving rescue in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. I then deployed in 2018 with my MEDEVAC unit to Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Syria. As a unit we completed over 100 MEDEVAC missions. Soon after returning home, I started showing symptoms of PTSD and decided to start going to therapy.
I started therapy in August of 2019, to try and understand and cope with some of the symptoms I was experiencing while also being diagnosed with PTSD. In December 2019 I lost three of my brothers during a Maintenance Test Flight. I continued to receive therapy and tired multiple different types of therapy to try and find some relief.
With not much progress with therapy in the last year I reached out to friends and family to ask for recommendations for a service dog. I had a friend mention that they recommended Soldier 6 and that is when I decided to reach out and see if they could help me.
Drey and K-9 Tucker
Tim and K-9 Harley
I joined the Marine Corps in October of 2003. After boot camp and my MOS school, I was immediately deployed to Fallujah Iraq where I did 2 back to back tours. During those tours, I was involved in an operation called phantom fury where we had to clear the city house by house. After my enlistment, I joined the bear creek fire department in North Carolina. There have been many things I’ve seen and done that I wish I could forget. I currently suffer from PTSD, nightmares, severe anxiety and manic depression and I believe a battle buddy would help me through a lot of the turmoil’s I deal with on a daily basis.
Note Tim will be joining forces with his battle buddy, one of the super adorable German Shepherd puppies you have seen on the page (name to be determined). We will update this section once a name is selected and Tim is paired with his buddy. Below is Tim's Bio.
My name is Tim. I went right from High School into the Army for 3 years. After that I sort of fell into law enforcement. Not the typical career someone ‘falls into’, but I loved it and was part of who I was, part of who I am. I spent 8 years with Milwaukee PD, exploring various paths, horse patrol, investigations and the beat. I left Milwaukee as my wife and I had started a family and wanted to be closer to her home. 20 years later this is also my home. When I left Milwaukee, I joined Brooklyn Park PD. Again, I explored and jumped in anywhere I could; SWAT, investigation, undercover narcotics. I loved it – until one day I didn’t. I guess it had been building over time, but my wife would tell you that one day it changed – I changed. The years of suppressing the emotions and the trauma that I had seen in 25+ years became too much. I became withdrawn from my career – becoming mentally debilitated the day before I would have to go back to work – and withdrawn from my family. In 2019, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I tried for two years to get “back to my old self,” but the memories and the trauma were too great. I left the PD in 2020. I still struggle daily-often little tasks become too overwhelming and the nightmares continue. I am grateful for Ed and Dana and having been referred to them. I am so inspired by Soldiers 6 and am looking forward to meeting my battle buddy and continuing this journey and my recovery. My hope is that some day I get to a place where I can help others that struggle with this condition as well.
Maggie and K-9 Bailey
My name is Maggie. I am from Southern Minnesota. I live on a small hobby farm with my family.
In college, I pursued a career in law enforcement. In 2007 I was hired as a police officer for Faribault Police Department, a busy, blue collar city. Six years later I was in a crash in I-35 while assisting with a call of a vehicle stalled on the road. In 2015 I was forced to medically retire due to the extent of my injuries.
Between a difficult childhood, calls as a police officer then the debilitating crash, I have struggled with sleep, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, and depression and memory issues.
Last fall I had a scare when the combination of my pushing my anxiety limits, dehydration and a medication caused my brain to do a complete reset while I was walking on a narrow wave break on Lake Superior.
That as well a over 7 years of therapy and no end in sight, I knew I needed another tool on my tool belt that wasn't a medication.
The recent death of two of our family dogs have opened my eyes to how much they had been helping my mental health.
I reached out to Soldier's 6 and was immediately put in contact with Dana and Ed. My hope is that a service dog will assist with recovery and management of my mental health conditions.
Shirley and K-9 Athena
My name is Shirley. I grew up in NE Minneapolis and was raised by my single mother. I graduated from DeLaSalle High School in 2008. My mom worked hard to provide me with a private education. I enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduating high school and was stationed at the Portsmouth medical hospital.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in social services. Mental health difficulties and substance abuse have plagued my family for generations. While enlisted, I attended community college and received an associate's degree in social science. After being honorably discharged, I moved back to MN and attended college at Concordia University to study human resources management. I chose to study HR because it seemed comparable to my rate in the navy. I quickly learned that civilian HR and my role in the military were very different. I had minimal passion for the subject but decided it was best to finish the degree I started. I graduated from Concordia with a BA and went on to enroll in a master's program in the mental health field.
I received my master's degree and am now a marriage and family therapist and substance abuse counselor. I have worked in a variety of settings within my field and love the work I do. I intend to utilize my service dog for my personal mental health needs and as a supportive therapy dog to my clients. I believe I am good at what I do because of the many traumatic events I have experienced throughout my life and subsequent mental health struggles. I have chosen to use my gift of longsuffering to help others which has given my life great meaning and purpose. Although there are many benefits to my work, I have experienced the loss of multiple clients due to drug/alcohol use and overdose.
I struggle with persistent fears of danger, hypervigilance, and underlying consistent anxiety (to name a few). I have witnessed the power of animals to help humans in many ways. The love, companionship, and loyalty of a dog is like no other. This program is a blessing to many people and I greatly appreciate Ed and Dana for their hard work in providing this service.
We are so excited to welcome a new member into our Soldiers 6 family. This one is extra special! They are our 1st corrections officer recipient!! Way to pave the way for the rest. Love it!! They have chosen to remain anonymous, and like always, we respect that. They picked up their new pup this weekend. Thank you to Coco's Heart Dog Rescue for another perfect match. Thank you to you all! All of our supporters. It is because of you that this is all possible. Please join me in welcoming our newest recipient and their battle buddy, Cersei. Which I am way behind in my TV shows. I just discovered she was named after a Game Of Thrones character.
I was born in Minnesota but moved to the west coast when I was a teen and lived there for about 15 years. While there I worked as a correctional officer for almost 10 years but due to unforeseen circumstances and a desire to be close to family again I moved back to Minnesota in 2017. I've been working for the Minnesota department of corrections now for a little over 2 years. I have always had the desire to help others and do my part. I have seen a lot of stuff over the years and it's taken its toll on me both mentally and physically. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper alertness, depression and fibromyalgia...basically a hot mess. I have looked into service dogs in the past but it was never financially feasible for me and I thought it would never be an option for me. So when I heard about Soldiers 6 from a co worker I think it was meant to be. I don't think he realizes what a blessing this is to me and my family. I know that I don't always deal and cope in the healthiest ways and as much as I hate to admit it my wife and kids take the brunt of it even though I never mean for it to be that way. My hope is that whichever dog chooses me will help me through my dark days and help me live a healthier happier life. A huge thank you to Dana and Ed for all their help and support through this program and to Mike for introducing me to Soldiers 6.
Elisabeth and K-9 Oakley
We have another recipient to add to our Soldiers 6 family, and it seems fitting that I get to introduce her and her puppy on Veterans Day. Elisabeth Devin and her battle buddy, K9 Oakley have already become a wonderful team. Life can be crazy, but there is no doubt in my mind that together they will conquer life head on. Oakley knows his job and he does it well. So very proud of them. Please join me in welcoming them to the Soldiers 6 family. This couldn’t happen without all of the amazing support we get from you all. Thank you so much. We are here because of you... our supporters. Without further delay, meet Elisabeth and Oakley.
My name is Lis, and I am a 2020 recipient of a wonderful K9 partner named Oakley.
I was in the Army for five years, primarily as a combat medic, and I later switched to the Air Force to become an air evac flight medic. I served in OIF/OEF, and after ten years of service, I was honorably discharged in 2008. Like so many of us, I vehemently denied that anything I was feeling was different or unique from my fellow veterans. I struggled with sleep, anxiety, depression, and a good ole’ fashion dose of PTSD.
It took me several years to reach out for help, and I always ended up quitting therapy before it got too hard. I am a master at coping mechanisms, a skill for better or worse that has gotten me through tough times. Through it all, I had my boy Jax (an Olde English bully) for 11 years -- who was my rock and soulmate of a dog. I lost Jax in 2018 to old age and the third round of cancer.
I had no idea how much he support he gave to me throughout our 11 years together until he was gone. I had several doctors recommend a PTSD dog after Jax’s death, and I said absolutely not. I was never going to have another dog again. Well, you know how it is - dogs find you and find a way into your heart.
I connected with Soldier’s 6 a few years ago to help fundraise for them. I knew what Jax meant to me and understood how S6’s mission could be life-changing for veterans like myself. Well, it turns out a few years later, I was ready for a new dog after all. Soldier’s 6 has been there for me through quite a journey this past year. Ed and Dana are doing precisely what they are meant to do in this life with S6, and I am so very grateful. I am also incredibly excited for Oakley and me to start our journey together and look forward to better days to come.
This last weekend, we welcomed another member to our Soldiers 6 family. This is a military recipient, who wishes to remain anonymous. We respect that. They did share a bio for you to see the path in life that brought them here. We thank them for their service and with open arms welcome them into the family. This weekend, they were partnered with thier battle buddy, Winnie. Thank you Coco's Heart Dog Rescue for another fantastic match. Welcome to the family Winnie and battle buddy.
I grew up in the Southwest suburbs of Minneapolis. I had always wanted to join the military and do something in Special Operations, but other than my grandfathers, no one in my family had served. After going to college and working a “regular job” for a few years I decided if I did not enlist now, I’d likely never do it.
In 2013 I enlisted in the US Army with a Special Forces contract. I attended Infantry basic training at Fort Benning and followed on with Airborne School. From there I went to the Special Forces Assessment and Selection. I was selected and began my Special Forces training at Fort Bragg for the next 2 years. The course was intense, and you could be dropped at any time. It was my initial exposure to the level of intensity I would be living daily. During my initial medical training, I encountered some of my first traumatic experiences working in civilian Emergency Rooms and EMS.
After Green Beret graduation, I was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, KY. The unit I was given orders to was called the “Crisis Response Force” and I was immediately sent to Sniper School and another Close Quarters Battle (CQB) school for 18 weeks of training in hostage rescue, building breaching/assaulting and special reconnaissance. I was deployed with the unit to Iraq and when I returned I began experiencing the first anxiety/depression/panic symptoms. In the military, any behavioral health records can be accessed by command teams. I held (and needed) a Top-Secret clearance for the job, so I could not jeopardize it by potentially sharing things in therapy that would disqualify me. Instead, I coped with alcohol and was miserable. I decided I needed to make a change, so I left the military.
We moved back to MN, and soon after I realized my anxiety/depression/panic symptoms were just as bad as they were in the Army. I also noticed I was hyper-vigilant and my temper was razor thin. I found it impacting my ability to be a good husband and father and I needed help. I had tried therapy and medications in the past, and I never really got relief. I came across Soldier’s 6 on social media and reached out to them. I heard back from Dana almost instantly, and she connected me with Ed. From there they facilitated the process and I was given “Winnie”. The two of us will start our training soon and I’m grateful and excited to begin!
Congrats to our latest law enforcement recipient. Welcome to the family...
Well this little guy has been home for awhile. Actually, since the day we dropped him off at his home, even though it was to foster, some how we just knew this sneaky beagle would work his way into their hearts. Some recipients want to remain anonymous, at least on social media posts. We respect that. Copper is a beautiful beagle and he is staying with his law enforcement family.
Dogs... just say the word and it can bring a smile to your face and warm your heart. In fact, scientists say a “cuddle with your pup triggers oxytocin release, helping you to bond with your pet and alleviate stress”. When K-9 Copper came to live with his foster family, he gave them a run for their money. But during those crazy moments, he burrowed his way into their hearts. Law enforcement, military, firefighters, dispatchers, EMT’s and correctional officers can suffer from PTSD , or just the emotional effects of these jobs. Copper has been doing his job since he took residency in their home. Dogs are the best medicine.
Thank you to all of our supporters who continue to support to allow unions like this. Copper and his buddy have many awesome days ahead. And we are so glad it’s permanent
Todd and K-9 Diesel
Hi my name is Todd. I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Having an extensive family history in military service, I knew at a young age I wanted to serve my country or the community I lived in.
After graduating high school in 1990, I decided to start college moving towards my law enforcement degree. I attended Inver HillsCommunity College and graduated with a Criminal Justice degree in 1993. While attending Inver Hills, I completed a police internship with a Dakota County police department.
In 1994, I attended and graduated from the Center for Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement. In 1997, I was hired as a police officer for a Ramsey County police department where I continued to work until 2006 on a part-time basis.
In 2000, I was hired as a full time police officer for a Dakota County police department. I worked as a patrol officer on all 3 shifts throughout my career. I was enthusiastic about being a police officer and what I did for a career. It was not just a job to me, it was something I needed to do to help people and my community. It truly felt good!
After approximately 10 years on the job full-time, things just felt different. I didn't have the enthusiasm I once had, but I knew this was just part of the job and time on tends to change things. I kept a level head and always tried to be positive and say to myself I can do this. This is normal.
On July 30th, 2014 a friend and co-worker was killed in the line of duty. I felt emotions and feelings that I have never encountered in my entire life. Anger that this happened and I couldn't' stop it from happening. Sadness for the family who will never have this great man in their life ever again. I couldn't get a real grip around this tragedy. The department had changed, the job had become exactly that a job. We received counseling but it just didn't change my anger. I knew at this point being a senior officer, how I showed emotion and how I performed my job from now on in would reflect on new officers starting. I buckled down,I have a job to do and my community and partners still need to trust in me. So I continued on through many dark days keeping it all close to the vest as they say.
I went through several more years, dealing with a lot of turn over in the department. The repeated exposure to trauma clearly was taking its toll, what I thought was the new normal was not anything close to normal. It wasn't until I started seeing a counselor for the physical signs that I realized this. I thought I didn't need counseling, I thought I was tougher than that, then I realized how truly stupid it was to think like that. If I went to call I would encourage someone to seek counseling. I realized cops are good at giving advice but not for following their own advice.
The counseling helped me, but the job just wasn't the same. I always felt like when is my day coming, especially as the calls of service and trauma increased over the years.
In January 2019, I responded to a naked male trying to break into an occupied residence. I arrived first, the male was striking the glass patio window with an object trying to get in. The suspect charged me despite being tased, a struggle ensued and he struck me in the head with a large metal object. I was able to fight through the injury and take the suspect into custody.
Due to the injury on that day, I was not able to return to duty. That was difficult to swallow! As a counselor once said to me, your glass is full and its been over flowing for a long time! That needs to change.
Today I am still recovering from my injury and several diagnosis, its been a long slow battle with many frustrating dark days.
I have been blessed to have a wonderful supportive family, friends and wife. I have been also very lucky to have crossed paths with Ed and Dana, they truly have a gift to help others and are wonderful people!
Thanks to them, our new family edition "Diesel" will make for brighter days ahead on the days we need that extra guidance.
Josh and K-9 Kodi
My name is Josh. I grew up in multiple states (Military Step-Dad), but was mainly born and raised a Minnesotan. True and true Minnesota sports fan (diehard/unfortunate). Graduated high school in Shakopee, and after military service earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice.
After high school I joined the U.S. Army in 2009 as a 12B (Combat Engineer). After basic training I was assigned my unit and immediately started mobilization training for deployment (Route Clearance/IED Hunting). After MOB training I was deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan (2010) to conduct route clearance attached to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Marine Infantry divisions.
I served a year in the Helmand region (RC South), and experienced my first first direct IED explosion to the vehicle I was driving on October 31st, 2010. Over the course of the year in Afghanistan my vehicle as a driver or gunner hit a total of 13 IEDs, firefights, and other encounters with the Taliban. My unit recorded a OEF record over 350 IEDs cleared off the battlefield.
Soon after my to the United States (served 6 years) I experienced many of the symptoms of PTSD, concussion, and re assimilation to society. The VA to me felt very underwhelming, not supportive, and like I was a number. I decided to try and bear the weight and be Army strong, which turned out to be a bad choice. In the last two years I’ve decided after struggling I’d hit my limit emotionally and started claiming disabilities, getting therapy, and admitting I’m human.
I have been fortunate to have been introduced to many caring people including Dr.Don Wood of Inspired performance institute. The neuro science available from Dr.Wood has tremendously helped in my recovery, as well as managing my symptoms with proper care. The last 10 years has been a real struggle day to day managing my feelings, emotions, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
While it is very early in my recovery and progression of healing my traumas I feel Soldiers 6 has been a blessing for getting me a battle buddy to attack my weaknesses. My amazing girlfriend Amber worked with Dana and introduced me to Ed recently, and we were awarded Kodi. I feel so grateful, hopeful, and an enormous debt to Soldiers 6 for helping in my PTSD recovery.
Adam and K-9 Breezer
My name is Adam Potter and I live in Hastings Minnesota. I grew up on a farm near Danube, Minnesota. I graduated from Renville County West high school in 2002. After graduation, I attended Army infantry basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. After basic, I was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and Bravo Company 2-35 Infantry. During my 5 1/2 years in the Army, I was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. I initially was supposed to serve 4 years but was affected by the stop loss policy the Army had and sent to Kirkuk, Iraq.
During my time deployed, I conducted hundreds of patrols, raids, and other missions, I have seen many disturbing things that off and go along with war. However, it wasn’t until Iraq and some events that happened there that I really changed and started having issues. I had witnessed friends dying due to car bombs and IED’s, and lost my best friend, Derek Roberts, to a land mine. I also lost another friend, Derek Dobogai to a helicopter crash. That one was a tough one since my platoon was the first ones on the scene of the crash. I did not know my friend was on it until I was pulling him off the wrecked helicopter and put him in a body bag. The scene there was a mess and something that haunts me to this day.
After returning home from my time in the Army, I found little support and had a lot of trouble re-integrating into society. I found friends and family that I thought I could lean on, would rather leave me alone because they didn’t know how to deal with me or my issues. I was so angry that I nearly joined the army again, with the hopes of being sent to a war zone and being killed. I never wanted to take my own life, but wanted to die as some of my brothers had, with honor. It was becoming clear to me that there was no place in normal society for me and everyone that I thought had cared about me, had moved on. It was about this time that I met my future wife, Lindsey. Things began to change for the better.
After I graduated from college with a law enforcement degree, Lindsey and I were married. We moved to Hastings and we had our first child, Jackson. It was at this time that I worked for the Dakota County Sheriffs Department. My time as a deputy sheriff was a very difficult part of my life, and still hard to talk about. I found that I couldn’t handle pressure and stress like I used to be able to do with no problem. I was having panic attacks so severe that I was sent to the hospital with a possible heart attack. I started hating being a cop because of what I felt like, and felt like a failure to my family. I ended up resigning my position and left the sheriffs department. It was another low for me. I felt like I failed my family and I did not know what would happen to our home. All of the stress took a toll on me and my family.
I currently work for the Union Pacific railroad as a bridge tender. I have been doing this job for about seven years now. It is usually a very low stress job, so that is a big plus for me. I do still struggle a lot with my PTSD. I get irritated very easily, and I struggle with nightmares and flashbacks. I still hate crowds and I tend to shut down around people I am not comfortable with. I am hoping that Breezer will help make these problems less of an issue, and in the long run make me a better person, father and husband.
Briana and K-9 Berrett
I’m Bre. I grew up in CoonRapids/Anoka area. In high school I knew I wanted to help people and started working towards a career in Ems. I became a medic working for a company in rural Minnesota. I did this for 6 years until unfortunate circumstances left me looking for a new career. It was during this time, as a medic, I met My husband, a police officer in the area and we continue to reside in the northern suburbs with our 3 children.
From here, i went back to school, with two young children at home, and became a RN. I continue to work as a nurse today, with children, in the cities. The kids I work with are amazing!
It was in nursing school where I first discovered the walls closing in and panic set in. A call to my husband and he was able to calm me down to finish out my day. Through the years, I’ve noticed at different points, different things can trigger anxiety. I don’t know why or what was the reason it ever started. I do know, that with my husband and Barrett each day is better and bearable. It wa s my twin sister who suggested I check out Soldiers 6 and who pushed me to accept that I too deserve a chance at less anxiety and triggers and I am forever thankful I did. Learning to train and take Barrett’s lead has been an amazing journey, and I can’t wait for what’s next!
Chris and K-9 Leo
Through my life and travels, I have claimed 23 different addresses. Never really slowing down, always on the move!
My family is steeped in military history (Grandfather-Army, Father-Air Force, Uncle-Air Force, Uncle- Air Force KIA, Brother- Career Retired Air Force), and I wanted and needed to continue the path of Service. Right after I graduated high school, I worked all the details and testing with the recruiter. A week later I raised my hand, took our Oath and was on a plane to Basic Training. I served with the 355th Logistics/Trans at Davis Monthan AFB AZ, and shortly thereafter I volunteered for the 4404th Provisional in Dhahran, SA, then back CONUS to Davis Monthan. (1992 to 1996). I was very fortunate in my experiences to work alongside and train with some of the best Brothers and Sisters from Air Force, Army, Marines, and Law Enforcement. I am blessed to still be in contact with some to this day. Through the good times, and the hard times, these are Brothers and Sisters I will never forget. Ever.
I received an Honorable Discharge in 1996, and we decided to move back to Minnesota with my (ex)wife and two children, and a disability rating due to a couple severe service-related injuries. Not too long after, my (ex) wife and I divorced, and they moved back to Arizona, and eventually 8 ½ years overseas. I decided it would be a great idea to go through a mid-life crisis at 28, bought a motorcycle, and self-medicated with excessive drinking to ease the pain. (Hint: It evidentiarily does not). Through many lessons, I eventually righted the ship, I met my (now) wife and got back on track with life.
I have worked for the same company in Commercial Finance for the last 22 years, and have enjoyed my career. I am an avid outdoorsman (it’s how I keep somewhat of a resemblance of sanity) with hunting and fishing, enjoy shooting competitively (handgun, rifle, shotgun), and am a certified training instructor and safety officer in multiple capacities. I enjoy the teaching, and it all leads back to my Drill Instructor. I asked him “Why are you a DI, if you are a Master Sergeant?” His response was “I didn’t like the way the men were trained coming out of Basic Training. So, I figured the best place I could make a change, was at the beginning.”. Those words have been with me ever since.
The last few years, have been hard fought. There was several major life events that took place, that I tried to deal with best I could. (Or chose to not deal with at all). Suck it up, push it down, and press on. Right? I mean, I am certain many people have it much worse than I, and our mission is to help them. It’s what we do, it’s in our blood and in our soul. However, I will reluctantly and sheepishly admit that my hypocrisy knows no bounds, as I do not ask for help when I know I should ask for help. One bright and shiny day late this summer, since I was too stubborn to ask for help, my body took it upon itself to ask. It shut down to the point I was fighting to breath, and I couldn’t get out. Walls came in, spinning, and it looked like I went swimming. After the most humbling experience of being carted out on a gurney from my office, and a fun ambulance ride, The doctor at the ER said “Well Mr. Heikkila, do you know what happened? That was God bitch-slapping you.” (apologize for the language). “That was your wake up call, because next time it’ll be a heart attack. You need to get some help, now.” Huh. I swallowed whatever was left of my pride, took their advice and finally reached out for help. Shortly thereafter, I had another “episode”, but significantly more elevated that again put me in the hospital. After many meetings and evaluations, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety/panic attacks, depression, and PTS stemming from specific events from back in the military. I thought I had pushed all those demons way down deep enough, enough time had passed, and that I had enough control. Apparently, these things don’t just “go away”. And if you stack up enough….shtuff…..it eventually topples over whether you want it to, or not. (Imagine Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation, emptying the RV in the sewer. “S******’s full!”)
A friend of mine named Brian got ahold of me, and suggested that at his annual rifle Match (King of .28 Miles) in September 2020, he wanted to do a fundraiser for a local non-profit for Veterans called “Soldier’s 6”. I looked them up, did some due diligence, and thought it was a great and very worthwhile organization to help raise funds! Brothers/Sisters helping Brothers/Sisters. “I’m on board, let’s do this!” It was at our next rifle Match that Brian, Christy, and Russ sat me down and said they wanted ME to apply to be a recipient of a service dog from the Soldier’s 6 program. My immediate thought was “I am sure there are more deserving Brothers or Sisters first.” Where they had a simple, but effective response that will live with me always: “We, as your friends, believe you deserve it.”
Adam and K-9 Dash
My name is Adam. I grew up in Savage and went to Burnsville High School. After graduation, I attended the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where I played football while earning a B.A. in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance.
I started my career in law enforcement with the St Louis Park Police Department in 2003 before transferring to the St Paul Police Department in 2005. In St. Paul, I had the opportunity to work patrol in each of the citie's districts, the FORCE unit, the SWAT team and as a task force officer on the FBI Safe Streets Task Force.
I had the great opportunity to work with some amazing people in some incredible assignments.
Like most police officers, I experienced all the "normal" traumatic events that officers deal with everyday. I was also in and around multiple officer involved shootings in my career. One, in which I was shot in the leg. Thankfully, my wound was not life threatening and I was able to return to duty.
But PTSD, not really knowingly, had a major impact on myself which, in turn, had an affect on my wife and kids.
I realized, after a lot of time and thought, that given the statistics of a cop, I wouldn’t be around long after retirement, and there isn’t anything I want more than to see me kids graduate and succeed.
What I realized was that if I stayed in law enforcement, I wouldn’t have a good, or any,
relationship with my wife and kids.
I went to Soldier 6 with a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks attitude with where I was with things. But what I got in Dash is more than anything I could have imagined. I’m grateful to soldier 6 for their support and opportunity.
I would also like to thank you all. Dash and I appreciate all of the support, donations and prayers. Dash wouldn’t be here without them.
Kara and K-9 Buster
In 2008-2009 I deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a Combat Medic. During this deployment I was able to assist Dismounted Combat Patrols as their Medic, I cross-trained as a Physical Therapy Technician, I was the NCOIC (as a Specialist) of the Civilian Medical Assistance (CMA) missions, and on weekends when I wasn’t doing CMA’s, I brought soldiers to climb the Ghar Mountain (when it was relatively safe). Every day you experience the hyper-alertness. Every environment, every person, every object, everything looks suspicious. It’s surreal and real all at the same time, but because of this, you live harder and truer than you ever have. Everyday in Afghanistan I had a job to do. It was important. It had purpose. I was one of those who truly loved and was proud to put on my uniform every single day. Life was simple.
Coming back from deployment to fit back in and adjust to civilian life, to find that purpose, that sense of belonging, has been a constant struggle. Major Depression Disorder and Anxiety consumed me with a vengeance. The inability of a normal life to ever match the amplitude of living that I achieved in Afghanistan pushed me into a dark place, that was easy to cover up with fake smiles, and the façade that everything was fine. In 2016 the birth of my son brought Postpartum Depression. I had tried medical assistance from the VA but gave up on them. I called to make an appointment with a civilian Mental Health clinic and they never returned my call.
Then, about a year and a half ago, I thought about how I would end my life. I cried. I cried because I knew how blessed I was. I had a beautiful baby boy, an amazing and patient husband, a caring family, a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes on my back. I cried because I knew deep down inside that I didn’t want to die. I cried because I realized that this wasn’t really me. This was the picture of my mental illness taking over. “Depression is a dark and scary place, where my mind shows me the worst of myself, of humanity, and of what others think of me. Depression tells us lies.” “It sucks the life right out of you.”
That day I found Soldiers 6. I needed help but was desperate for any help but medical. The thought of trying a new medication was exhausting. The thought of talking to someone about these feelings were even more exhausting. I just needed something different. I reached out to them and instantly got a message back from the organization. After talking with them, I could only hope that this was a step in the right direction . Eventually I met Ed and the process started for me in obtaining a service dog.
It’s been a difficult journey in the acceptance of a service dog. I always felt that I didn’t deserve one, that this was maybe a bit extreme for my scenario, and out of all these stories that I’ve read, mine was minute, until I met Buster. He was my first pick because he was smiling in his picture. From the moment I met him, we’ve had an instant bond. He never leaves my side and hates when I’m out of his sight. He does things for my depression that we haven’t even trained for. From getting me out of bed in the mornings when I don’t feel like dealing with the world and all it’s bullshit, to making me laugh and smile, to putting himself between me and another person if they’re too close to my personal space, to defending me when my husband and I are fake fighting ( to see what he does), to comforting me with a 63 lb. snuggle, all while doing it with a smile on his face. I admire his love for the human race and for all animals he comes into contact with. (I'm one of those that love animals more than people.) I admire him for putting up with me on days when my depression wins. I also admire him for never holding it against me and always giving me that wiggle butt when I’m ready to tackle life again. He adds an essential piece to my life I didn’t know I was missing. Even though he is not a "cure" and that I will probably be on medication for the rest of my life, he has made a difference. I will forever be grateful to the Soldiers 6 organization.
Clare and K-9 Wilson
Clare is a prior law enforcement officer. Her bio will come at a later date to give you a formal introduction, but Clare is fostering her puppy that will eventually go into training and become her official service dog. Welcome to the family.... and her puppy. She is still deciding on his name...
*UPDATE* The Puppy has been named Wilson
**UPDATE #2* Clare's Bio:
My name is Clare Boyle and since I can remember I always wanted to hang out with the “guys” and do things that I was told I couldn’t. If someone told me it wasn’t possible, I was going to prove them wrong.
After graduating from high school I started college for nursing, but quit after a few months because I couldn’t stand the idea of being told what to do by a doctor. I returned home and started working at the bottom of a corporate business from 9 to 5. I hated it. When I learned about EMS (Emergency Medical Services) I was so intrigued. I liked the idea of excitement, lights and sirens and being in one of those “cool” jobs. I thought I could have the best of both worlds.
I became a Paramedic in 1990 and got a full time 911 job. In the beginning I loved it. The adrenaline was so addicting and I couldn’t get enough. Going call to call and seeing all the “gory stuff” was exactly what I wanted for my career. I loved telling people stories about what calls I had been on and their reactions of disbelief. But as the years passed, and I was one of only a few women on the department, I could begin to feel the pressure. I was good at what I did, but constantly felt I had to prove myself because I wasn’t one of the “guys”. I saw horrible things and watched people die in front of me. I would always push down my feelings because I didn’t want to be “one of those girls”.
In 1992 I got married and had two beautiful children. We married young and a few years later my husband became a Police Officer. I would ride along with him, and again, I loved the adrenaline that had no longer fulfilled me as a Paramedic.
In 2004, I was recruited by the Cottage Grove Police Department to come work for them as a Police Officer/Paramedic. I was so excited!!! I went through skills and started on field training. I loved my new job with lots and lots of adrenaline. I joined the SWAT team and anything else I could to be part of the “big calls”. I worked as a Detective and was praised for my skills. But as time went on, I felt myself withdrawing from those types of calls and if I felt any emotion, I would shove it down deep inside.
I loved drinking. As I would say, “my job is stressful, so I like to have a drink after work and when it’s my day off, I drink because, well, it’s my day off”. I was soon drinking everyday, but thought I could “handle it”. I thought this was the norm as everyone around me was doing the same thing.
In June of 2018 I was involved in a serious squad accident while being in a pursuit. It left me with permanent physical injuries, but the psychological ones were the worst. I was diagnosed with PTSD and a Traumatic Brain Injury.
I didn’t know who I was anymore. I couldn’t be who I use to be and I hated this new version. I couldn’t be physically active and my new anxiety and depression was keeping me in bed for days at a time. I would have unexplained panic attacks for “no reason” and I couldn’t continue to be my Type A self. I attended counseling but was “stuck” as I didn’t want to bring up all the calls and feelings from the last 29 years. I had prided myself on the ability to handle it.
I found myself drinking to keep the anxiety and depression at bay, but what I didn’t realize was that it was just making it worse. I watched TV all day to disassociate and never left my house unless I had to. I went through the motions of getting better, but I knew that I really wasn’t. Friends stopped calling me and I had to struggle with the fact that my coworkers never reached out.
I finally decided that I had to change. I have to be my own cheerleader. I have to get out there and interact with society. I want my life back. I know that it will never be the same, but I know that I now have a partner that will always be there for me when times are tough and be a reason to get up and live.
Keith and K-9 Biltz
We came into contact with Soldiers 6 when our son saw a post on Facebook that they were looking for a foster family. They needed one in a hurry. Since we were currently without dogs we sent them a message. On December 17, 2019 a 16 week old Red British Labrador named Blitz came into our lives. The foster family that he was with couldn’t make the numerous trips to the twin cities for veterinary care. See Blitz was special. He was born with hip dysplasia and needed lots of medical attention and surgery. Blitz had surgery on December 21st and then spent the next 3 months recovering. These early months of his puppy life were taken away from him while he recovered. By the time he was released to go for long walks and to run a little he was 51 lbs and looked like a one year old dog. My wife and I started puppy training and have been working him since. He’s now 17 months old and 80 lbs and has an old soul of a gentle giant.
We realized that Blitz gave our family more compassion and unconditional love when we “thought” we didn’t need it. We didn’t realize at the time that our previous two dogs did the very same thing when we need them most.
I retired after 30 years as a volunteer firefighter. 19 years as a Captain. As many of you know we first responders see and hear things that no one should ever have to see or experience in their life.
My mother was diagnosed a few years ago with Alzheimer’s. It’s been trying at times knowing that my mother will forget who I am, as well as my siblings. Dealing with everything that comes with a parent with Alzheimer's is so emotionally draining. Blitz pays special attention to my mom when she’s with us. She’s forgotten that she doesn’t particularly care for dogs and Blitz doesn’t care. He’s there. Knowing that he’s able to comfort my mom when her anxiety hits is so comforting. We know that he’ll be there for us too when the need arises.
We’ve become very attached to Blitz and know that it would be so heartbreaking for us to have to let him go. He gives not just me but our whole family so much. We talked to Dana and Ed and they have decided that he will stay with us. We could not be any happier to have him in our lives. Dana says this is not a foster failure. The cat, however, does.
Ryan and K-9 Dez
My name is Ryan Johnson. I was born and raised in Inver Grove Heights, MN. I graduated from Simley High School in 1999. I am currently a retired veteran married with 3 children and a dog.
I joined the MN Army National Guard in March 2000. I spent my basic training and AIT at Fort Jackson, SC. I trained to be a Heavy diesel mechanic. I spent 11 years with the 34th Infantry division in Rosemount, MN. The last 7 years I spent with 834th ASB HSC in Arden Hills, MN.
I was deployed to Basrah, Iraq in February 2009- February 2010. I spent two months in Washington training for deployment.
I obtained a couple temporary positions as a military technician in Rosemount, MN and Camp Ripley. In June 2012 I secured a permeant fulltime position as a military technician in Rochester, MN.
When I came back from deployment in February 2010, I wasn’t the same person as I was before I left for deployment. I started distancing myself from family and friends. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I was always on guard as if I was getting attacked. I had high anxiety with mood swings filled with depressing thoughts of suicide. I started relying on alcohol to help me forget all the awful and painful memories of deployment. With the alcohol and often times of not having it I would grow angry and fight with my family.
My wife kept telling me there was something wrong with me. Pointing out all the obvious signs of PTSD and begging me to get help. I refused to get help. As time passed on, I became worse, often yelling hurtful words at my wife and children. One day my wife packed her bags along with my kids and said “We’re leaving” and that is when I decided to go for help. In May 2016, I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD.
Chad and K-9 Blizzard
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement in 1994. I worked in security, corrections, and was a volunteer firefighter before I was hired as a police officer. I work in a small 20-man department in Dakota County.
Life was great! Full time cop job, married, kids, homeowner, dogs & cats. I told my wife “I can’t believe I get paid to do this job!” (Yes- I actually said that) The signs and symptoms of repeated exposure to trauma started to appear but I was taught it was all just part of the job. As life went on, I made my world a little smaller. My wife and I struggled through the problems on our own, made mistakes, and learned as we went.
After a close friend was killed in an accident the first big meltdown occurred. We survived, but it was clear this problem was much bigger than we could handle ourselves. I met with different therapists over the years but never on a consistent basis.
In 2007 I earned a master’s degree in Police Leadership. I started taking on more supplemental assignments, including 9 years as an operator, sniper, and sniper team leader on the county wide SWAT team. In July 2014 I was assigned to investigations when my department had a line of duty death.
By 2017, the department had about 45% turnover in only 3 years. It felt like the department operated in a chaotic state and there was no sense of normalcy or stability. I struggled at home and my family struggled too. I was burned out and my performance showed. I returned to patrol, with no supplemental assignments, but the damage was done, and the struggles continue.
I met Ed on the SWAT team in 2009 and he was a good mentor to a new operator. We followed and supported Soldier’s 6 and know previous recipients. The opportunity to foster came up and my wife and I answered the call. We felt this was a great way to contribute to helping recipients improve their quality of life. Not only do I have my own struggles with PTS, our son is an Army veteran struggling with PTSD. This makes the Soldiers 6 mission very close to our hearts. We felt called to contribute. We knew Blizzard was destined for bigger and better things we just didn’t know what.
K-9 Blizzard arrived at our house on the coldest day of February 2019. She was roughly 8 months old. At first it was a struggle and I questioned my decision. A bond developed over the next couple of months and she settled into life in our family of four, including another dog and two cats. Blizzard’s personality is infectious.
We began obedience training with other fosters and the bond between Blizzard and I grew stronger, much stronger. I realized giving her up would do severe damage to our family. After conversations with Ed and Dana, Blizzard became a permanent blessing to my family. She has helped all of us, including our dog, Ranger, grow to be happier and more resilient. Soldier’s 6 made a perfect match. It feels like this was meant to be.
Ed, Dana, and Blizzard have inspired me to help others fight their battles with mental wellness and all the baggage that comes with a career as a first responder. I am fortunate enough to remain working in law enforcement. I know admitting to mental illness, therapy, PTSD, physical illness/injury, etc. can be damaging to a first responder’s career. To say this is wrong is a huge understatement. I know the departments that hire us are slow to respond and change culture. Blizzard has brought me so much happiness that I want to share it. WE are all worth it!
Blizzard has visited my department several times and she is always invited back. She has been given her own department patch to wear on her vest. She might even start working day-shifts. We continue training and as she matures, she is proving to be an excellent dog. I am hoping for a successful and peaceful final six years of my law enforcement career and Blizzard will play a large role in that goal. I don’t know where my family would be without the Soldier’s 6 organization and all the people who support their mission.
Congrats to our latest law enforcement recipient. Welcome to the family...
Dogs... just say the word and it can bring a smile to your face and warm your heart. In fact, scientists say a “cuddle with your pup triggers oxytocin release, helping you to bond with your pet and alleviate stress”. Not every dog needs to be a service dog to give their recipient what they need. Some dogs just need to be there with their owner/recipient. When K-9 Scout came to live with his foster mom and dad, he gave them a run for their money. But during those crazy moments, he burrowed his way into not only his moms heart, but dads heart. A big man that wears a uniform and protects his community can in fact have feelings. True story. I married one such man. Scout formed a bond with his dad. One that mom knew couldn’t be broken. She saw the difference little Scout has made and wanted to make him a permanent resident. We talked on the phone. How could I say no??!! We started this program to help people. Law enforcement, military, firefighters, dispatchers, EMT’s and correctional officers who suffer from PTSD , or just the emotional effects of these jobs. Scout has been doing his job since he took residency in their home and he will permanently remain there working his full potential as a therapy dog. Dogs are the best medicine. I applaud his wife for coming forward. Marry a person that you can go into war with, not against. She, much like myself stepped forward to fight for her husband. She fought to keep what makes him happy. And for that, I am extremely proud.
Thank you to all of our supporters who continue to support to allow unions like this. Scout and his buddy have many awesome days ahead. Below are just a few of the many pictures of Scout. He is such a proud and photogenic dog, along with his letter of adoption that mom put in dad’s Christmas stocking. Welcome to the Soldiers 6 family K-9 Scout, your mom and dad too.
Remi went to her recipient last spring. They debated on a bio. Sometimes it’s tricky in the law enforcement world. They want their privacy and we will respect that. Welcome Remi and her recipient.
Sometimes it takes the strength of a true warrior to ask for help. There have been a few times when we have been asked for help. We have a recipient that wanted a dog, yet wished to remain anonymous. I (we) understand. Sometimes , unfortunately, it may affect their career, or there is still just that stigma in society. Sometimes, in the law enforcement field, they just want privacy. We respect that. We would never want someone’s path to be harder or darker just because they wouldn’t agree to be a public face. We have some awesome supporters. And in that, I know you can all understand. You have read my posts, whether written by myself or shared from another sight. You have been on our journey and it is one that if walked alone, would truly be hard. If not totally defeating. Last spring, K9 Remi brought joy to a family. A law enforcement family. Remi will go on to do many things that she was destined to do for his recipient whom will respectfully remain anonymous. I know we will still get pictures to share with you all. What I will share is that Remi’s recipient put in their time, and still does, serving their community. They work for a large department in Minnesota. Hand in paw, with their new found battle buddy, they will do it together.
Jim and K-9 Jetta
I served with the Mendota Heights Fire Department for over 27 years with the last 12 years as the Assistant Chief. I retired in 2009. I was also an electrician for 39 years retiring in 2016.
My passion was always being a firefighter. I loved helping people and serving the communities we protected. Being part of that “fire family” was rewarding in so many ways. As you can imagine there were those calls that the outcome wasn’t what we had hoped for. I always found a way to file it in the back of my head as a way of dealing with it, but you never forget. I can still remember a few calls that happened over 20 years ago like it happened yesterday.
Our connection with Soldier’s 6 was one of fate. In October of 2018, we had to put our dog, Savannah, down due to bladder cancer. She was also a rescue dog that came into our lives unexpectedly. She was the most loyal and loving dog I had ever had. I lost my sister and father-in-law in 2014. It was a difficult year. I have never been the type to show my emotions and to a fault you hold them in until you’re ready to burst. Our dog Savannah could read me like a book and always gave me reasons to smile. So when she passed there was a huge void in our hearts.
A friend and his wife volunteered to be a foster family to Soldier’s 6 and suggested we become a foster family as well. We contacted Dana and they put us on the list.
In January 2019, they called us and said they had a dog for us to foster. Jetta was rescued from a reservation in South Dakota. She was found chained up, left outside in the sub freezing temperatures huddled up next to her dead frozen brother. We were determined to provide the love she never had. She is a dog that has so much love in her heart and over the past 11 months watching Jetta become a very special loving and loyal dog. At first I tried not get to attached as I knew she would eventually be leaving us for her service dog training. Being retired I am with her a lot. She goes everywhere with me and has developed the same passions that I have. In the winter ,we are always at the St. Thomas Academy rink where I sharpen skates for the high school team. The men’s and woman’s college teams are always there. Little Jetta is quite the celebrity there. She is loved by all. In the summer we are at the lake most of time where Jetta loves swimming and pontoon rides. We are becoming more connected with each day. She senses when I am having a bad day and gives me that unconditional love that some how makes things a little better. Our relationship has grown to the point that it would have been very difficult to let her go.
I was contacted (officially) by Ed last Sunday where they decided that Jetta would be ours. We are beyond grateful to have this special dog in our lives. After I hung up the phone from Ed, there were a lot of tears of joy and happiness. Looking at Jetta while we hugged, I could tell she understood that she is now officially part of our family! What a great Christmas present!!!
Thank you Soldier’s 6!!!!!
Sometimes it takes the strength of a true warrior to ask for help. There have been a few times when we have been asked for help. We have a recipient that wants a dog, yet wishes to remain anonymous. I (we) understand. Sometimes , unfortunately, it may affect their career, or there is still just that stigma in society. We would never want someone’s path to be harder or darker just because they wouldn’t agree to be a public face. We have some awesome supporters. And in that, I know you can all understand. You have read my posts, whether written by myself or shared from another sight. You have been on our journey and it is one that if walked alone, would truly be hard. If not totally defeating. Recently, K9 Mason brought joy to a family. A law enforcement family. Mason will go on to do many things that he was destined to do for his recipient whom will respectfully remain anonymous. I know we will still get pictures to share with you all. What I will share is that Masons recipient put in their time serving their community. 24 years and their last 10 as a SGT. They have received the medal of merit and a life saving award to name a few. Now it’s time to enjoy life. Hand in paw with their new found battle buddy Mason, they will do it together. Much love and appreciation to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and Mizpah Lodge who have sponsored Masons training.
Natasha & K-9 Alexis
Help me welcome our newest member to the Soldiers 6 family, Natasha Orbeck. She and K-9 Alexis will join forces one week from today. Below is her bio and pictures that she chose to share. They are beautiful and show her journey in joy and sorrow. We truly believe better days are ahead Natasha. Welcome❤️🐾 you are never alone. #evenheroesneedbackup
I was born in California and moved to Minnesota when I was 4 years old. My childhood was not easy and before my senior year of high school, I moved into my own apartment and joined the military. I worked as a waitress and bartender my entire senior year and often closed the place down. Needless to say, my grades took a dive. I did graduate and then quickly shipped off to my final phase of training known as AIT where I became a Combat Medic. I spent 1 year with a medevac unit stateside before volunteering to deploy with a separate unit.
We were stationed in Balad however I was one of the “lucky” medics that got to travel to other bases. I visited Tahlil, Basrah, Baghdad and Camp Warhorse to name a few. I received an ARCOM for my work as a medic which is something to be proud of however, I came home a different person.
I was skittish, angry, impatient, nervous, hyper vigilant and exhausted all of the time. I denied any issues as I continued to move forward in life by doing the things society expected. I went back to my job, bought a house and continued living despite the overwhelming thoughts of what if I just drove off this cliff or if I took all these pills at once…..
Then it happened, I met someone. A police officer in fact! He encouraged me to seek help and I reluctantly registered at the Minneapolis VA Post Traumatic Stress Recovery Clinic. Together with the PTSR clinic and my new boyfriend, I grew to enjoy life much more, be more confident and feel like I was in a good place. This boyfriend eventually became my husband and our lives became a never-ending story of goal seeking chaos mixed with an everlasting love.
I started college (again) and earned a degree before my husband decided to switch up his career a bit. He went from Police Officer to State Trooper so again our world had a little bit more chaos than order.
Then it happened, we’ got pregnant! In the midst of his academy and halfway through my second college degree! There was a lot of uncertainty with how we would make it work but we did. We lived separate until just before we had the baby. Our baby girl was born and we were excited to finally be parents!
Eventually, his work brought us full circle and we were able to move back to where we started. By this point, I realized the degree I had earned would not transfer so easily into jobs that I could work within an hour of home. I was not willing to live separate again so I offered myself up for college again… I began nursing school in 2015.
Then it happened, cancer. In the midst of our lives finally settling down and halfway through my third degree, my rock, my person was diagnosed with cancer. I stayed strong and positive as best as I could, and he did too. We had built a foundation of faith and love and knew that with everything we had been through, supported each other on, and been victorious in, that this fight would be no different.
Except it was. On July 27, 2017 just 13 months after diagnoses, my husband went to be with Jesus. Now I was there alone to fight my demons who were being stirred up in record fashion except I’m a mom now so I can’t just throw in the towel. Suppress, ignore and carry on is what I did. I’m a soldier after all; I can do this.
Many people saw me struggling but I assured them I would do no harm. Mentally that was hard, but my heart could not fathom leaving our daughter without both parents. I was offered a service dog before, but I denied it and said, “give it to someone who needs it more”.
After 10 months of being a single mom of one, I decided to become a single mom of two. Prior to Josh’s chemotherapy treatments, we banked specimens to continue our family. I made the gut-wrenching decision to follow through with our dream. I knew I wouldn’t get my fairy-tale ending but I felt compelled to live out what plans I could, and I am proud to say God gave us a boy!
It’s so easy to smile on the outside and occupy yourself with the demands of your days especially when kids are involved however, at night when they sleep and you’re up alone, your mind gets going again and it’s a fight to get back up after the spiral down to the demons.
I thought being a medic and seeing what I’d seen, helping those I could and failing others was the hardest thing I’d ever endure and it still pretty high up there but nothing can prepare you or come close to the pain of losing your person. The one man who didn’t turn away when I “wasn’t okay”. Now I talk to a stone and shake my fists at the sky and simply wonder why I have been asked with carrying so much. What does God see in me that this weight continues to rise?
Then in September of 2018, my battle committed suicide. Suddenly the grief over losing my Josh and everything prior became impossible to hide behind a smile. I knew I needed something, and I reluctantly agreed to have a service dog. I was met with a “finally!” as Dana could see all too well the need but could not move forward without my go ahead.
I am both anxious and excited to receive my dog as many have told me what a difference it makes. The one piece of humor I continue to find in it all is that she’s a lab. My husband Josh convinced me to get a lab once because “they only shed twice a year” I never questioned this but quickly realized that their “shedding seasons” lasted 6 months at a time.
I’d like to believe my husband is looking down and proud of the steps I have made for myself and our children and I am almost certain he is laughing over the fact that Alexis is a lab!
I am realizing that not only is it OK to be broken, it’s OK to ask for help and I pray Alexis helps me get back to the me I once was instead of this shattered soul who wears a mask.
Paul & K-9 Frank
I have spent my entire life in Maplewood. I started my career with The Maplewood Fire Department in 1987 at the age of twenty-six. I retired January 2018 after 30 years on the streets of Maplewood as a fire captain/ paramedic. Working in the city in which you grew up in and raised for family in becomes difficult when the emergency incident involves someone you know.
During the spring of 2017 I distanced myself from my friends and station crew; I sold important hobby equipment and began to think about a suicide plan. Fall of 2017 there was some very serious incidents that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and some incidents from years ago came into my thoughts. I was irritable with my wife and kids and never spoke about my thoughts.
The week of Thanksgiving 2017 we had an incident that involved the death of a friend of mine from high schools father. After that incident I decided it was time to enact my suicide plan. November 29th was the date I picked, but luckily I became scared and called my wife at work stating I needed help.
I was diagnosed with PTSD, Major depression and suicidal ideation. Since that day I have spent a month in United Hospital and two separate months at a firefighter PTSD treatment center in Maryland.
My German Shepherd Frank is a gentle giant and true life saver. Frank is receiving his service dog training now, I am thankful for Frank and the tremendous gift Soldiers 6 has given me.
Paul is Soldier's 6's first Fighter Fighter recipient!
Andrew & K-9 Rocky
Growing up in Saint Paul, a product of the Public School system, I had no skills. As a young man, I ended up heading down a bad path. To escape the madness, I decided to enlisted in the Army.
In 2006, after being stationed at Fort Riley, in Kansas as a Combat Engineer, my unit deployed to Tikrit, Iraq. Our tour went on for 15 long months. Pretty much every day we were out finding (hopefully) and destroying road side bombs. Everybody in my unit had been blown up many, many times. Some of my brothers never made it home.
My exposure to the combat changed my life forever. After coming home, gradually, certain things and life in general just got harder and harder. Relationships failed; I was not happy. I had a real tough time just relating to people. I was either way too proud or stubborn to seek any help. I ended up bottling up a lot of horrible feelings for several years.
I eventually became a police officer. Things got even harder. I began to shut off and shut down. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Sometimes I would forget where I was going. There were many things that were wrong. But still, I never wanted to ask anyone for help. I never wanted to talk to anybody about this until one day I just hit the ultimate breaking point. That was when I finally decided to get some help. Things got easier, but I was still having some real issues.
One day, I spoke with my friend Dana. We hadn’t seen each other for a while. I explained what I had been through. That was real tough for me. But I’m so glad I did it.
I would end up meeting with Dana and Ed. We talked some more and they decided I would be a good candidate to receive Rocky. They provided me with my new best friend. I can’t even put into words how grateful I really am or how much of a huge help Rocky is. He’s always there for me when times get tough and I feel alone. He’s the most loving loyal and supportive friend I could ever ask for. I’m so glad I reached out to soldiers 6 for help. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself, and my family.
Quinn & K-9 Echo
My name is Quinn Willmarth, I was born and raised in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. In 1986 I graduated from Park High School. I am currently a Police Officer and have been married for 8 years, I also have a son along with 2 dogs at home.
In January 1987 I joined the United States Marine Corps. After completing boot camp and The School of Infantry, I was shipped off to Marine Barracks Hawaii. A little over 2 years of barracks duty, I was transferred to 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines (3/3). After joining 3/3 we deployed to Okinawa Japan for 5 months and then 1 month in Thailand.
On the 2nd of August 1990, after returning back to our home base in Hawaii which happened to be the same day that Iraq invaded Kuwait. My unit was deployed to Saudi Arabia on the 26th of August 1990, for Operation Desert Shield.
During the buildup of Desert Shield, we did a lot of training for missions that we may be given. On the 1st of January 1991, we got onto trucks and moved up to about 26 miles from the Saudi Arabia/Kuwait border and about 5 miles from the Persian Gulf. Desert Shield changed to Desert Storm once the air war started. We stayed in this area through most of the air war. While in this position, we had about 2 dozen rockets land near our area. When the Iraqi Army took control of the small border town of Kafji, Saudi Arabia, my unit was sent in to assist the coalition forces in clearing the city.
About 10 days before the ground war started, my unit was trucked west about 200 miles and were positioned on the Saudi Arabia/Kuwait Border and waited for orders to enter Kuwait. One morning, we were told to write our final letters home that we would be going into Kuwait that night. Our mission was to be the left flank security for both Marine Divisions as they crossed the border.
We walked about 15 to 18 miles to get into position. We walked through 2 mine fields during this march, and part of our unit was attacked by coalition planes. We stayed in our blocking position for a couple of days until we could be picked up by trucks, then traveled through the burning oil well fires, and ended up at Kuwait International Airport. Shortly after the Ground War ended, we were trucked back to Saudi Arabia and on the 8th of March 1991, we boarded planes to return home.
I got out of the Marine Corps in March of 1992. After getting out of the service I struggled with alcohol and relationships issues. I became completely withdrawn from life and emotionally dead to everything. In 1998 I graduated from Inver Hills Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement.
I became a Police Officer for a small town in 1998 and continue to work there today. I was also part of the Washington County wide SWAT Team and my primary job was a Sniper. The most rewarding part of my job is working with other Veterans in crisis; I am able to connect with them about my experiences and what has worked for me.
In 2017 I was honored as the first recipient of the Hero of the Year through the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. We were dispatched to a house for a Veteran who said he had a gun and he was going to commit suicide. When officers would call inside and they told him they were the Police he would hang up on them. I called the Veteran on my cell phone and told him that I too was a Combat Vet and that I understood what he was going through. After bridging the gap I told him that I was also a Police Officer and I was outside. I told the Veteran that I would like to talk to him face to face. The Veteran then said he would be right out. We were able to end the situation peacefully and get the Veteran help.
I assumed that quitting drinking and seeking help for my PTSD would solve things for me, unfortunately PTSD stayed below the surface, bubbling up at times and sometimes spilling over. After a horrible experience at the VA after leaving the Marine Corps, I was reluctant to go back, but in 2018 I have started going to the VA and so far it’s a much better experience.
Echo will be a great addition to my life and my family. I am honored to be given this great gift and hope for my future by Soldier 6.
Sara & K-9 Mac
I was born and raised in Minnesota and attended Coon Rapids High School. At 16 I began police explorers which started my goals towards working in Law Enforcement.
I worked as a security guard and community service officer though college and got my 2 year associates in science law enforcement degree from North Hennepin Community College.
I was sworn in as an officer in 2003 along with my future husband. My husband and I began dating in 2004 and we were married in 2007.
During my career I was an FTO, worked in our safe streets unit, community oriented policing unit, rotational investigator, and ended as a detective school resource officer. The most challenging part of my career was the last 4 years working with students who had special needs and mental illness.
In July 2017 I was diagnosed with PTSD and it was deemed I could not return to work. In December 2017 my husband unexpectedly passed away while we were on a family vacation. As things were settling down my husband’s father unexpectedly passed away in January 2018.
I retired from the Department February 2018 from my duty disability.
Paul & K-9 Rocky
My name is Paul Dellwo. I was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 1990, I graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. In 1994 I graduated from Inver Hills Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement. I started working in law enforcement in 1998 for a small department where I was active as a Use Force Instructor and also participated on the county SWAT team.
In December 1994, I signed and raised my right hand giving the oath that I would serve and protect this great nation. I left for basic training in early 1995.
During my career in the military, I served in Panama, Italy, Germany and Iraq. I was activated and deployed to the MPLS/St Paul Airport in Support of Noble Eagle. It was during this time I switched MOS careers to the Infantry. I started with the 2-135 Alpha Company in West St Paul in 2002. I eventually transferred to HHC in Mankato, where I became a platoon sergeant with new recruits coming into the Minnesota National Guard. This is also when I was assigned to the scout platoon. In 2005 I received my orders for deployment in Support of Iraqi Freedom. The scout platoon was attached to the Owattowa Heavy Weapons Company where we spent the next 22 months.
Mobilized in October 2005 and trained for six months before we hit boots on the ground in Kuwait on April Fool’s Day. We spent the next two weeks training and becoming acclimated to the heat. We then crossed over into Iraq where we found our home for the next 16 months.
Our company was responsible for convoy operations, quick response force, intelligence gathering missions and security patrols. IED’s were a common thing, calling EOD was even more common and looking for trigger men.
Upon returning from Iraq, I continued to serve with the Minnesota National Guard. I retired in 2015 after 20 years of service. When I returned from Iraq I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and got hired with a local police department working in the patrol division.
I buried it all. I denied myself the emotions I felt, the images I saw, and the smells and reactions to horrible things. I pushed down deep and thought to myself, this soon shall pass. The physical and emotional effects I thought would pass, never did. The emotions can only be pushed down so deep and then they have a way of creeping back up to the surface.
When I finally decided to reach out for help at the V.A., I was only smirked at and asked “why after 10 years are you coming here?” I left dishearten by the system which I served for 20 years. As I explained to someone at the VA; it’s my ruck sack, I’ve had to pack it and carry my stuff around for 10 years now and I all I wanted to do was unload it.” Unfortunately, the V.A. was of no service to me or my issues.
I have feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and feelings that no one understands. I was lost, not knowing my place because of these emotions. I have difficulty many sounds, especially the sounds of helicopters, my living can was so close to a Medivac Hospital. I find myself even doing patrols in my house late at night making sure it’s secure and safe. All of this has controlled my life and has driven it for far too long. It wasn’t until late and talking with Soldiers 6 that I realized I wasn’t alone.
Mike & K-9 Delta
From a very young age, I knew that law enforcement was my calling. I grew up tailoring my life and education towards the ultimate goal of becoming a cop.
When I was 14 years old, I joined a police department's explorer post. I was a very active member of the post all through junior high and high school. I eventually worked in multiple, non-sworn roles such mall security, low-income housing security and bicycle patrol.
Immediately out of high school, I moved to Alexandria and attended Alexandria Technical College. When I graduated in 2001, I was almost immediately hired as a part-time sworn police officer. I worked as a part-time officer until December of 2001 when I was hired as a patrol deputy for a metro sheriff's office. I left my deputy job in December of 2002 and moved around for a couple of years working as a police officer in very small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
I was hired as a full time patrol officer for the Mendota Heights Police Department in June of 2006. During my time at Mendota Heights, I also worked as a part-time patrol deputy for a rural sheriff's office and continued working as a part-time police officer for another police agency.
After medical diagnoses in 2017, I was deemed unable to continue working in law enforcement. I received Delta from Soldier's 6 on November 12, 2017. I'm looking forward to the opportunities that Delta presents for my future.
Video of the Official Presentation of Delta to Mike is posted above with Rocky's. Below is a short video of Mike and Delta meeting for the very first time.
David & K-9 Ace
My name is David Anthony Rosc, I am 33 years old. I was born in Hibbing Minnesota but i grew up in Chisholm Minnesota. I am the youngest of five and grew up in a very close family. I spent a lot of time out doors with my father, mostly hunting, fishing, camping, and trapping. I was actively involved in sports, playing baseball and football. I was very active in my church youth group and developed many close friendships through the years. After high school I attended college at Northwestern University in St. Paul,Mn. I majored in physical education. After my freshmen year of college I decided to change my career path and moved back to the Iron Range where I went to tech school for welding. After one year of welding school I was hired at L&M radiator and was fabricating and welding industrial radiators for mining equipment. When I turned 21 I decided that I wanted to make another change in my life.
I wasn't happy where I was and I wanted to find more adventure and wanted to serve my Country. Nearly a Year after I turned 21 I enlisted into the US Army. In October 2005 I was on my way to Basic Training at Ft. Sill Oklahoma. I enlisted to be a 13F (fire support specialist), this MOS is a combat MOS in the Field Artillery. A lot of my friends thought I was crazy for enlisting, especially at a time of war. They just couldn't believe that I was making this decision, knowing that I would likely end up in a combat zone. My family wasn't to happy that I decided to enlist but ultimately they were proud. After completing basic training and AIT I was stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington state, near Seattle. I was attached to the 1st battalion 5th infantry Regiment of the 25th infantry division. My unit was fielding the new "Stryker" at the time, they had just returned from Fallujah Baghdad. Being a new private to a battle worn unit was intimidating at first but I was grateful to have so much experience and good leadership to lead me to the next chapter of my life. Just after 4 short months of being stationed at Ft. Lewis, my unit was ceremoniously "re-flagged" to another Unit. We were no longer b co. 1-5th but became b co. 1-2SCR.
June of 2006 I arrived in Germany, we were essentially the same unit, they just changed our name and location. After a year of training and acclimating to Germany, we received sudden orders to deploy to Iraq. It came as a surprise to all of us because the original intent of moving the Strykers to Germany was to "showcase" them to our Allied forces in Europe. We were to establish a base in Romania and work closes with there Army. It was near the end of July when we were briefed on our mission ahead. I remember vividly my commander saying we are going to the most dangerous area of Baghdad and the Unit we will be taking over for had a 40% casualty rate. Those words wore engraved in my head and stayed there until I was in country. I was able to go home for 2 weeks before I was actually deployed. The weight and gravity of what was coming was so surreal to me, when I was home visiting with my friends and family, it felt as though I may never see them again. It was very bitter sweet saying good bye to them.
August 2007, we arrived in Kuwait. The moment I stepped off the plane I thought I just stepped into a oven that had been pre-heating for the last hour. The heat was unlike anything else I had ever experienced before in my life. After 2 short weeks of training and allowing our bodies to acclimate to the desert climate we boarded a C5 load-master and where on our way to Baghdad international airport. We arrived in the middle of the night and quickly were loaded up on to some CH-47 Chinook helicopters. This is when reality began to sink in for me. With the engines screaming and sound of the whirling blades, I thought to my self "this is it, here we go". I knew as soon as I stepped off of that air craft that it was going to be a very long 15 months!
It didn't take very long for us to be in "contact" with the enemy and be engaged in our first fire fight. We went on a night raid into the most dangerous provinces of Baghdad, called Sadr City. We were after a high value target in the heart of Sadr City. Things didn't go as planned and our mission took longer than it should have. One of our stykers was berried to its axials in mud and had to be recovered in the middle of an intense fire fight. My company as a hole was hit by over 40 IED's (improvised explosive devices), My stryker was one that was hit. I was inside the styker when we were hit, I've never experienced such a violent, jarring, traumatizing moment like that before. Half of my squad including my self were so concussed we barely knew where we were. I was so shook up and agitated, I struggled to load our drivers weapon with a magazine, something I did with ease on a daily basis. In the spring of 2008, my Unit fought in the most intense urban conflict since the war in Iraq began. We had a mission to cease and desist the enemy from launching rockets and mortars into the "Green Zone" of Baghdad. We went in "no holds barred" and successfully stopped the enemy. But this success was not with out cost, we lost 9 solders during that time. 3 of them were in my company, they were my friends and my brothers. Losing them was like losing a part of me, it was one of the hardest and most tragic times of my life. After 15 longs months of hell on earth we returned to Germany. After some debriefing and reintegration training we were allowed to go home on leave. I went home for a month on some much needed time to unwind and try to re-adjust to "normal" life. During my time home I decided that I was done with the regular Army and decided to re-enlist in to the MN Army National Guard so I could be closer to home. In
June of 2010, my mother was found dead on her bedroom floor. It was believed to be caused by sudden cardiac arrest. My life began to spiral out of control after that very day. I had just started to adjust to a "normal" life but every bit of trauma I experienced in combat came back to me ten fold when my mother died.
September 2010, I married my beautiful and loving wife. I was still grieving but my wife was very supportive and helped me through the troubling time. One short year later my oldest son Chase was born. It was such a blessing to have him in my life but I felt like couldn't be a complete father to him. I didn't feel hole, combat stole so much from and I felt there was only peaces left of me.
November 2012, My dads health rapidly declined after my mother had passed. He died from a massive heart attack a couple days after Thanksgiving. I couldn't catch a break, not only am I struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and depression but I had to carry the grief of losing my parents. The nightmares and thoughts of suicide were enough to push me of the edge. The only things that keep me from pulling the trigger are my family. I carried my trauma with me in every aspect of my life, and those closest to me suffered. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life with my service K9 Ace by my side. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Doug & K-9 Zeva
Soldier's 6 is honored to introduce our newest recipient US Army Veteran & Deputy Sheriff Doug Sundberg. On March 18th, 2017 Doug was paired with his Battle Buddy Service K-9 Zeva and together they will help each other navigate through life. Please welcome Doug to our Soldiers 6 family.
I was born in Regina, Canada alongside my twin after 28 weeks. We were tiny and spent the next 3 months in the hospital. My family moved to Minnesota when I was 8 years old. My brother’s and I enjoyed a wonderful childhood surrounded by much family. When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 3 months later. Our family was thrown into turmoil as her presence was greatly missed. My father remarried two years later and adopted two daughters with his wife. During this time, I struggled with my anger as it was the way I felt my hurt and loss of my mother. Subsequently, my disrespectful behavior landed me into a Christian boys’ home for a portion of my junior year of high school. Afterwards, I enlisted in the US Army and left after graduating high school. I turned 18 in Basic Training. I found purpose and the means to excel while in the Army. I also learned respect and discipline. In 2001, a member of my unit and I were helping a stranded motorist and were struck by a drunk driver. My friend died at the scene. I spent the next year recovering from injuries, which ultimately ended my career in the military. Throughout the next several years, I moved back and forth between Minnesota and Kentucky attempting to find a home and future. Ultimately, I made Minnesota my permanent home. I married a long-time friend; however, divorced within a year. What I discovered was that the chaos and struggles from my past were consuming me. On September 13, 2010 I made a change in my life and stopped drinking. Alcohol had become the common denominator for most of the negative consequences in my life. I have been sober since. On January 9, 2013, my daughter was born. She changed my life and continues to teach me how to love. In 2014, my father passed away from cancer. I had no idea the impact his death would have on my life. Before entering law enforcement in 2015, I worked as a detention deputy at Hennepin County jail. During this time, I met an amazing woman that I married on February 25, 2017. We are excited for our future and what Zeva will bring to my life.
Jeff & K-9 Rina
Soldier's 6 is honored to introduce Jeff and his Battle Buddy Rina. Jeff and Rina started navigating life together on October 9th, 2016.
Jeff Keesey was born and raised in the Midwest. In 1987, he graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. In 1992 Jeff graduated from Mankato State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Law Enforcement. He worked as Police Officer for 20 years.
In 1986 at the age of 17, Jeff Enlisted in the Army National Guard. He attended Basic Training in between his Junior and Senior year of High School. During his career in the Military, he served in Panama, Guatemala, Norway, Italy, Germany, and Iraq.
In 2005 Jeff was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was a Military Police Platoon Sergeant. After a six month train period, his unit deployed to Iraq. He was responsible for three Convoy Escort Teams that consisted of 44 soldiers and the equipment they used. Their mission was escorting goods from southern Iraq to the north. Although he was not on every convoy, when he was his experience was valuable. When his Humvee almost hit an IED, a perimeter was set and he used a thermal sight to verify it the device was real. The device was later detonated by an EOD team. Jeff was also subjected to indirect fire. The base he was on received indirect fire approximately 2-3 times a week. In his 16months in Iraq he saw more death and destruction that most civilians will see in a life time. He served in Iraq from March 2006-July2007.