May 30, 1966 was the first declaration of Memorial Day in the country. Originally, Memorial Day only celebrated the lives of those who fought and perished in the Civil War. Today we honor and recognize all American men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom in the line of duty. Although we remember our veterans who braved the fight every day, for 52 years this holiday has been a pinnacle point for paying tribute on a national stage.
We get the day off, not to spend lakeside or to applaud our own hard work from day to day, but to highlight the service and life of those who lost their right to it, fighting for ours. It is our duty to support the efforts of those most brave and to reflect on the sacrifices made to maintain our rights to live as freely as we do. There isn’t a single day that goes by that those men and women are not sorely missed by their family, friends, brothers/sisters in combat and by our team at Soldier’s Best Friend.
Each year it becomes increasingly more difficult as the numbers of lives only tallies higher. It is with heavy hearts that we seek to acknowledge those who have given their all for the country they love. Whether those veterans fell to a musket at Gettysburg, were swallowed at the beaches of Normandy, struggled for breath through the jungles of Vietnam, or sacrificed over an IED in the Middle East, we owe them unwavering gratitude for giving their life to maintain the safety and prosperity of ours.
This Memorial Day we encourage everyone throughout the Soldier’s Best Friend community and beyond to make it a point to show your appreciation. Even in the smallest gestures, you are playing a vital role in the celebration and remembrance of those who have served.
Soldier’s Best Friend wants to thank all of our veterans who continue to fight, knowing what sacrifice might one day be required of them. We are grateful for the next generation of men and women who serve, not ever letting fear derail their patriotism.
It isn’t without loss that we truly value what we have gained. No matter which branch they fought under, they stood united in their fight.
PetSmart Charities chose SBF for their ad campaign highlighting some of the nonprofits they support. We are very honored to be part of this and appreciate PetSmart Charities’ support for our service dog training program. Below is a link to the 60-second ad that includes SBF teams along with other nonprofits. They are working on additional footage specific to SBF. When we receive those links, we will share them as well. Thank you PetSmart Charities!
Join us for a unique fundraiser and fun day at Ben Avery Clay Target Center. SBF is hosting our annual Sporting Clay event on Saturday, April 7, 2018. Players of all skill levels are welcome to participate. Last year, we saw the largest registration turnout since starting this event. Help us break that record this year. Player Registration
Strong support for last year’s event provided direct funding of equipment and training for veteran/dog teams participating in our program. To date, we have graduated a total of 210 teams. At any given time, an average of 35-45 teams are in training. Your support for this year’s event will help us continue to provide this life-changing service for veterans and their canine partners, while also helping to increase our visibility and encourage veterans to stay engaged in their community.
Businesses can support our cause through a sponsorship. There are more choices this year than ever before, giving you the ability to choose an option that best fits your interest and budget. We’re excited to announce that an anonymous sponsor will match dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 in additional sponsorships. This is a great way to double your support for a worthy cause. A sponsorship at any level is greatly appreciated and now even more effective. Whether you are interested in making a tax deductible donation, increasing your company’s visibility or simply having fun in your community, there are many options to show your support while honoring those who have served.
Should you have questions, please contact Jay Montoya at (623) 218-6486 or email [email protected] All proceeds from the tournament will be used to continue our pair and train program and provide ongoing support to veteran/dog teams at no cost to the veteran.
On behalf of our veterans and their best friends, we thank you for your support. We look forward to your participation in our Sporting Clay Tournament and appreciate your commitment to those who have served our country.
With persistence, dedication and love, Hayden Larkin, a Boy Scout, has created one of the first dog agility courses in his troop.
Hayden, from Surprise, is 14 years old and is currently a Life Scout with Troop 194.
He is the brains behind the invention of the dog agility course that will help train rescued dogs for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“The whole reason for the dog agility course and how that came about was, I initially wanted to go to Alaska and help build dog shelters,” said Hayden.
He decided to put his creative energy and his heart into giving back to a local organization called a Soldier’s Best Friend.
“My mother found a mutual friend between herself and an organization called a Soldier’s Best Friend,” said Hayden. “They said they would like an agility course to be made and I said, ‘I can do that.’”
Hayden researched other agility courses and gave himself the challenge to create one.
“A-frames, dog walks, tunnels, wing jumps, weave pools — I looked it up all at home,” said Hayden. “I bet if I complied these, I could turn it into a course.”
So far, Hayden has already spent over 100 community service hours just on this course alone.
“And that doesn’t include the work still left to be done and the work that will be continued on,” said Chad Larkin, Hayden’s father and the assistant scout master for Troop 194. “Boy Scouts gives back hundreds and thousands of hours every year.”
We decided to test the agility course with one of Hayden’s pups — it didn’t go so well.
But the good news is that with more training and patience, other rescued pups will be able to change the life of a veteran.
“This organization is perfect. It’s everything I would make if I could make any organization,” said Hayden.
Hayden’s course is all made from donations. He even took a chance at tweeting President Donald Trump to see if maybe he would want to donate towards his course — no response.
Hayden’s not stopping here — he plans on extending his course. He will deliver his course to the organization at the end of December.
“I’m pretty proud to see that it is almost done, that it is officially created, that it’s here,” said Hayden.
The saying, “It takes a village” is definitely true for Soldier’s Best Friend (SBF). All of you are an important part of our SBF community, and we thank you for everything you do to support our veterans and their canine partners. As we celebrate the end of 2017 and begin a new year, we honor the many segments of our SBF community: veteran/dog teams, volunteers, fosters, shelter/rescue partners, donors, sponsors, strategic partners and supporters, Eagle Scouts, media connections, neighbors, board members, trainers and staff. Each and every one of you have had a vital part in helping Soldier’s Best Friend grow and thrive.
So far this year, 46 teams have graduated the program. Because of your support, whether it be financial or through your hard work, 195 veteran/dog teams have successfully graduated from our service/therapeutic companion dog training program since our beginning in 2011. With one more group graduating mid-December, we are on track to reach the next milestone of 200 graduate teams by the end of this year. These success stories are only possible because of you and our hard working, dedicated veteran/dog teams.
Thank you to our shelter/rescue partners who help identify dogs that may be good candidates for our training program, allowing us to adopt and place them into loving homes. Working side by side with their veteran partner, these dogs have a chance for a new life in a loving home and a very important job. We truly appreciate your commitment and partnership.
Thank you to our fosters who bring newly adopted dogs into their homes and care for them. Your work to help these dogs transition and prepare them to be paired with their veteran partner is crucial to the success of the veteran/dog team. It takes special people who are able to welcome one of these amazing animals into their home, love and care for it, and then let the dog go so he or she can become part of a forever family. Thank goodness there are incredible people like you who can.
Thank you to our donors, sponsors, event participants and grant makers who have consistently supported our veteran/dog teams financially. We wouldn’t be able to provide this life-changing program at no cost to our veterans without your support. We can’t thank you enough for the generous gifts you entrust to us that provide the training, equipment, veterinary care and support these teams need to be successful.
Thank you to our hard working volunteers, Eagle Scouts, strategic partners and others who give of their time, talent, tangible gifts and connections to help take care of our campus, support us at events and all the millions of tasks we ask of you to help us get things done. You are all generous and amazing people.
Thank you to our friends in the media who tell our story to help spread the word about Soldier’s Best Friend and the work we do to help combat veterans and Arizona homeless dogs. It is vitally important we increase community awareness. Thank you for helping us do that.
Thank you to our board members who use their experience and leadership to guide Soldier’s Best Friend into the future. Your dedication to making informed, thoughtful decisions is critical to the health of our nonprofit.
Thank you to our trainers and staff who tirelessly commit themselves to the work of training our veteran/dog teams and making Soldier’s Best Friend the successful nonprofit it is today. You are the boots on the ground making sure we complete our mission.
And of course, thank you to our veterans. You are the reason Soldier’s Best Friend exists. Thank you for your service. Thank you for the sacrifices you and your families made to protect our freedom. Thank you for your commitment to training; for sticking with it through the challenges to achieve the final goal of having a trained service dog. Everyone in our SBF community supports you because it is our hope that having your trained service dog by your side makes it easier for you to live your life now that you are home.
Our program can have a meaningful impact on many lives: those of our returning veterans, their families and also the homeless dogs who become their canine partners. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who supports our mission. Together, we are a community that works to help veterans and Arizona homeless dogs. Together, we truly are touching two lives at once.
On this day of remembrance and gratitude, we celebrate the men and women who have bravely served our nation and fought to maintain our freedoms. For some the fight continues, long after they return home. We encourage everyone to be aware of the internal battles that veterans may face. Today, and everyday, we thank all veterans for your service, courage, and strength.
As of June 20 of this year, 185 veteran and dog teams have successfully graduated the SBF program. Each of these teams have witnessed first-hand the undeniable advantages of having a “best friend” and battle buddy. While we are extremely proud of their dedication and commitment to the program and each other, we are in complete awe with what these teams accomplish together in their day-to-day lives after graduation.
Photo of David and Caleb by Johanna Huckeba
A true testament to the SBF program and mission is seen in the graduate team of David and Caleb. Like many veterans who have witnessed the harsh outcomes of war, David was living with PTSD, making it difficult for him to readjust to civilian life once he returned home. The obstacles David was facing made seeing the light at the end of the tunnel nearly impossible which prompted his decision to search for help. He reached out to SBF with the hopes of regaining control of his life and that is when he was introduced to Caleb. The two trained together to establish the trust, love, protection, and companionship they both lacked prior to meeting each other. Graduation came in August 2015 and things continue to look up for the dynamic duo.
LivAbility Magazine captured a piece of David’s life after Soldier’s Best Friend. He is involved in an assortment of community outreaches which includes providing resources to other veterans and their families and volunteering at homeless shelters for veterans and troubled youth. “I want to do as much as I personally can to give back because so much was given back to me”. We are beyond proud of David for not stopping at improving his own life but continuing to positively impact the lives of the veterans and families he comes in contact with.
Photo of Caleb by Johanna Huckeba
Click here to read the full article on David and Caleb, pages 58-59, in LivAbility Magazine.
Damian and Bella (2014 Graduates) demonstrate to the Saguaro Chapter of the SAR their ability to operate as a team.
Soldier’s Best Friend was honored to join the Saguaro Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution as they hosted one of their monthly meetings. While there, Damian, who is our Director of Veteran Services, and his best friend Bella represented SBF and the extensive training veteran and dog teams go through while in our program. SBF is an organization dedicated to pairing, training and serving U.S. active duty and military veterans living with combat-related PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs. Most dogs in our program, like Bella, come from shelters all across Arizona which helps us maintain our mission of touching and saving two lives at once.
See below for the full transcript of the article or click on the picture above to visit the source.
Group learns about soldier dogs
Animals help veterans cope
By Stan Hughes
SPECIAL TO INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
March 22, 2017 | Page A23
Sons of the Revolution members learned how important dogs are to helping American veterans returning from overseas.
Damian King and his dog, Bella, from Soldiers’ Best Friend, demonstrated at a meeting of the Sons of the American Revolution the training each went through to help each other. Mr. King is Soldier’s Best Friend veterans programs director.
The mission of Soldier’s Best Friend is to provide U.S. military veterans living with combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury with service or therapeutic companion dogs. Most of the dogs are rescued from local shelters. The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once.
The Sons of the American Revolution is the leading male lineage society that perpetuates the ideals of the War for Independence. Those who have an ancestor who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774– 1783 are invited to join the SAR.
The Saguaro Chapter is an active group serving all West Valley cities and communities. The Saguaro Chapter meets for breakfast the fourth Saturday each month from September to May at the Golden Corral, 17674 N. Litchfield Road, Surprise. Call Jan Huber, registrar, at 623-975-4805.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Hughes is a Peoria resident and member of the Saguaro Chpater of SAR.
Memorial Day is a time for the country to pause and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation’s freedom. As we take pause, we should also reflect on the service men and women who have returned home, but remain in a battle with their wounds of war. Soldier’s Best Friend is committed to serving these veterans by providing them a service dog to help lessen their symptoms of combat-related PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury.
The most recent suicide data report from the VA (August 2016) states that an average of 20 veterans take their lives each and every day. One is too many; 20 each day is intolerable. Memorial Day can be a stressful time for some veterans. It’s a time to remember the fallen; for our veterans that is often a very personal loss. For some, it means reliving horrible memories. We hear from the veterans in our program, that some experience an increase in their symptoms around certain holidays. Memorial Day is one of those.
If you or a veteran you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact the Veteran Crisis Line for help. They provide confidential, round-the-clock support with trained and experienced responders.
It’s important for people to know that while our returning military heroes aren’t in a battle zone anymore, many are still battling a dangerous fight every day. Please help share information about Soldier’s Best Friend so that we can continue to provide this life-changing program to veterans at no cost to them.
The Foothills Focus published an article on the front page of their March 8, 2017 issue highlighting the upcoming Rotary Club of Scottsdale North fundraising event for SBF. Tickets are available for this fun event on Saturday evening, March 18, at Pinnacle Peak Village. Thank you to The Foothills Focus for the publicity and to Rotary Club of Scottsdale North for all their hard work hosting this event for the benefit of veteran/dog teams in our program.