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Zach and K-9 Nana

K-9 Nana

Having a service dog is something I never thought was a possibility for myself for two reasons. First, I never thought I needed one, and second, the financial side. No one wants to need help or support, especially when you are the head of a growing family with 4 kids and a business owner. Asking or admitting you need assistance can be tricky, and that's why I love Soldiers 6; they gave me the opportunity and resources to help myself. Control is an important feeling. But help is a great thing, and it does not take away from who you are. So with Soldiers 6, a service dog is an option for me. And for this opportunity, I am grateful beyond words.
At 17 years old, I joined a local fire department and began running part-time with the ambulance. I loved every minute of it. Helping people when no one else is around to help is such a great feeling. It was a small town department, and we didn't see call volumes like in larger cities. Mostly grass fires and minor accidents. But there was no shortage of death. I still remember those early morning calls or rainy day accidents where people were not so lucky; with such vivid memories, it's like they just happened. After a few years as a firefighter, I decided to follow the family path and enlisted in the United States Airforce. Working with combat search and rescue as a mechanic on helicopters. These years in the military were some of the best and worst I've ever had. It was the air force where I met my also veteran wife, and that was where we started our now family of 4 kids. But it is also where my panic attack and extreme anxiety began. Working in such a high-stress work environment where people's lives are literally lost or saved based on the seconds it takes to receive emergency "medical" care, I call it "Medical care," but it's really just quick clot and a tourniquet. That type of demand for perfection adds up. I wasted 3 years suffering in silence from panic attacks and constant fear. On the outside, I hid it as much as I could. But on the inside, it became so bad I couldn't leave my house for anything except work. I would spend hours hiding in the bathroom, not because I didn't want to work but because my heart was pounding, my legs were shaking, and my mind wanted me to run. My quality of life went downhill extremely fast. People started assuming I was a garbage airman, but I only wanted a day to work without the panic and anxiety. For three years, I went from the hangar to my house, I could not enter a store even for a moment, and when I needed gas, I had to prep for hours to get myself to stop; it was a personal prison. My friends that I had started to call me a flake and noticed I avoided any invitation I received. With 100% honesty, my wife is the only reason I pulled through and made it without attempting harm to myself; she never once left my side. It finally became a problem I could not hide, and while the mid-panic attack in the car, I pulled over and called for help from a supervisor who took me to a mental health professional. With help, medication, and time, I could regain confidence and control of my emotional and mental state. I still struggle with the attacks and often change plans last minute or avoid crowds of people. With the opportunity to train our dog to be a service dog, I hope to grow in confidence more and more. My kids deserve to have adventures, and simple things like going to a water park or taking a road trip should never be cut short because of my mental health. #nana #evenheroesneedbackup #MyBrothersKeeper
Watching many of my brothers suffer in silence, and several ending their lives from internal pain puts mental health a high priority for my friends and me now. I hope to help more people understand that struggling does not mean you are losing.

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