“Rare is the man who seeks not only to heal himself but to heal his fellow man.”
Serving four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and continuing to serve in the Army Reserves already makes Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Stockwell a person of great courage. When Pat began showing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) after his Afghanistan tour, he sought solutions from the Veterans Administration and the non-profit Austin Dog Alliance where he was paired with his PTS Service Dog, Jenny. With Jenny's help, Pat now educates veterans and his community about service dogs for PTS.
Admitting something was wrong and seeking help was no easy task; in fact it is rare – only half of veterans with PTS seek help for their symptoms. But when Pat was paired with his Service Dog Jenny, a 47-lb white lab, he recognized quickly that he and Jenny “were becoming a real team; just like in the military.” He sees the powerful connection between he and Jenny as the catalyst for improvements in his symptoms.
Now Pat actively and openly shares his struggles with PTS and his use of a Service Dog because, to him, it is part of the same responsibilities he has always had. When Pat served in Iraq, he protected his fellow soldiers by maintaining robots used to retrieve IEDs. When he served in Afghanistan as a squad leader, he was responsible for 15 men and coordinating convoys through Kandahar, Afghanistan. Advocating for veterans and service dogs is a continuation of his pledge to serve.
Since joining forces with Jenny, Pat has advocated for veterans, service dogs, and the Austin Dog Alliance Hounds for Heroes Service Dog program. He openly shares his personal story as many times as necessary to get the word out.
Pat speaks honestly when addressing a room full of families, veterans, donors, employees, or elected officials and often brings the audience to laughter with his blunt, candid manner. Yet with veteran suicides on the rise, Pat makes it clear that getting veterans help for PTS is no laughing matter.
Pat takes Jenny with him on monthly maneuvers with the 980th Engineer Battalion Army Reserves. Every person that encounters Pat and Jenny witnesses first-hand that teaming up with a service dog “is not a point of weakness” but rather a positive step towards healing. Pat has even inspired a fellow veteran to volunteer and become a service dog trainer for Austin Dog Alliance.
Pat reaches out to the community at large as well. He’s met with the City of Austin, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Williamson County United Way to discuss how the public can be more supportive of Psychiatric Service Dogs and veterans. His advocacy is desperately needed. As the use of psychiatric service dogs increases, laws regarding service dogs require clarification; the public is often confused about how to react to dogs in public spaces.
Rare is the wounded man who seeks not only to heal himself but to heal the pain of his fellow man. Pat shows unwavering courage each time he shares his story in order to reach veterans with PTS and advocate for service dog rights.
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