Staff and volunteers from the Family & Employer Programs & Policy (FEPP) Partnership of Programs joined the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and representatives from the Services to mark the Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) second anniversary at the VA’s Menlo Park, Calif., Welcome Center, April 25.
The FEPP Partnership of Programs, including the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP), Hero to Hired (H2H), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), joined WCC to commemorate the anniversary with a free barbecue lunch for veterans, live music, and service dog demonstrations.
WCC utilizes clinically based canine-assisted therapy to help wounded warriors and combat veterans with disabilities reconnect with their life, their families, their communities, and each other. Beginning at three months of age, Golden and Labrador Retrievers are trained by wounded warriors participating in therapeutic service dog training programs. Warrior trainers interact with the dogs as they move from puppy-hood to adult service dogs and benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection.
“Their training requires emotionally numb warriors to demonstrate positive emotion in order to successfully teach their dogs,” said Cate Dorr, WCC Program Manager. “What they need is support. When they are here in treatment this is a way to give them extra support.”
These warrior trainers commit to caring for the dogs in their homes until they are approximately two years old. After completing training and health screenings, the qualified service dogs are then partnered with combat veterans with disabilities.
“Service dogs provide connection and a sense of worth, which truly impacts the well-being and health of our wounded warriors and disabled veterans,” said Lt. Col. David Waisanen, the Marine Corps Reserve Liaison Officer to YRRP. “The response from Service members has been extraordinarily positive and profound. WCC has supported multiple Yellow Ribbon events, connecting wounded warriors and disabled veterans across the country with service dogs.”
YRRP has modied several of its events to meet the needs of returning units with special concerns by incorporating support from WCC. In February, the Marine Corps Reserve hosted a post-deployment event for the Personnel Retrieval & Processing Company from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Md. The unit had experienced a very unique and stressful mission during their deployment, and the agenda was tailored to include WCC and other methods for coping with stress.
“The Marine Corps event was a great example of how YRRP events can and should be tailored to meet a commander’s unique mission requirements,” said Ms. Marie Balocki, Office for Reintegration Programs Director. “As military operations around the globe evolve, all our FEPP programs remain committed to providing the most relevant support to Service members, their families, and their employers.”