The K9s For Warriors team welcomed members of the George W. Bush Institute’s Team 43 Sports program to Camp K9 last Friday, March 9, allowing warriors from both programs to interact and share in the community service project of painting buildings on the K9s For Warriors campus.
“It means so much for us to be working with Team 43 today,” said Tahoma Guiry, chief marketing officer for K9s For Warriors. “It's heroes helping heroes out here—helping us to improve our campus, as well as interact with our veterans. It’s so great for them to see folks that care, and that are reaching out after their service to help our organization and continue our mission of helping veterans with PTSD.”
Based in Ponte Vedra, K9s For Warriors is dedicated to the rehabilitation and empowerment of post-9/11 military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma through the provision of service dogs. Similarly, as part of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative (MSI), Team 43 Sports seeks to assist post-9/11 veterans and their families with the transition into civilian life, prioritizing the goals of gaining meaningful employment and overcoming the invisible wounds of war. Each year, the program hosts two events – the Warrior 100K mountain bike ride and the Warrior Open golf tournament – which highlight the benefits of sports to veteran recovery and wellness.
“Team 43 Sports has the Warrior 100K and the Warrior Open, and they have been asking for years to do more for the Bush Institute, on behalf of President Bush, and give back to their communities, so this was our way of putting that together,” said Emily Casarona, who manages the Team 43 Sports and Alumni Program.
As the two nonprofits share a common goal, K9s CEO Rory Diamond said he was thrilled when presented with the chance to work with Team 43.
“They said they were looking for a place to do their first community service project, and I said, ‘Yes, come on over,’” he said. “And then, of course, some of their members either have service dogs or were already involved with K9s For Warriors, so it was perfect.”
One Team 43 Sports warrior on site for the event was Spencer Milo, a veteran who was wounded both in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of several warriors featured in former President George W. Bush’s book, “Portraits of Courage,” Milo said that his personal experience with Team 43 Sports and similar programs inspired him to dedicate his life to helping other veterans with the crossover into civilian life.
“From day one in the military, you’re taught how to be a leader, and that’s something that a lot of folks don’t get right off the bat,” he said. “So, I think one of the important parts about the transition itself is ensuring that these military members are able to continue being the servant leaders that they are. They can continue leading in the community; we can give them those opportunities to get back in there and be an active member, which is really important.”
Billy Paul, another member of Team 43 Sports, added that it’s not just the veterans they’re trying to help.
“We’re trying to get everybody involved, so they understand what a soldier and family members are dealing with as they come back from combat. ... (K9s For Warriors) is a great organization, and I’m glad we could come down here and help them in any way we can,” Paul said.