K9s For Warriors celebrates milestone with 1,000th graduate


K9s For Warriors has been busy striving to help as many veterans as the nonprofit organization can by pairing them with dogs to help them get through their daily lives and in many cases save their lives.

That total reached 1,000 during a graduation ceremony held on March 21 at the organization’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The class consisted of 14 graduates, 10 from Florida and four from Texas.

“Since the inception of our Texas operation in 2019, 69 of our 1,000 successful pairings have been completed in San Antonio,” Interim CEO and board chair Daniel Bean said.

As is the case with so many graduation ceremonies that have been since K9s For Warriors’ inception by Shari Duval in 2011, the organization does not just pride themselves in saving veterans but also in saving the dogs that go through the program as well.

Bean also thanked the rows of people that filed in to mark the memorable milestone and celebrate the years of dedication and work that it took to get the point of reaching 1,000 veteran and dog pairings over the years.

“We want to thank all the volunteers and donors who over the past 13 years have helped foster the puppies, cook the meals and serve as ambassadors and those who donate the funds to help make all this possible,” Bean said. “Without any of those people doing what they do, this moment would not be possible.”

However, he also stated that although it is great to celebrate the accomplishment it is also important to not forget that the mission continues, and the steps are already being taken to help save the next 1,000 veterans.

“While each warrior has always conveyed their appreciation for K9s For Warriors, we intern thank them for inspiring us to continue to do what we do and improve upon it,” Bean said. “Our warriors are who inspire to not just do more but to do it better.”

Shari Duval’s husband Bob and son Brett were in attendance for the ceremony. Brett was the reason behind Shari’s vision after he came home with PTSD after serving as a civilian K9 police bomb dog handler in Iraq and she realized how he was only his true self when he was around his dog.

From there, the discovery and knowledge of the strength and important role the bond between a dog and their handler can have has become the basis of everything K9s For Warriors is built upon.

“I still remember the conversation I had with Shari in the lobby of my law firm, when she told me what she planned to do with service dogs and veterans and she then also told me that I was going to volunteer,” Bean chuckled. “I know Shari’s spirit is with us today and that she would be extremely proud of what has been achieved. Today, marks the fulfillment of Shari’s vision.”

The need for the organization’s mission remains as according to Bean, an estimated 20 veterans a day commit suicide and K9s For Warriors continues to strive to make that number zero one day.

“But tomorrow will come and it will present a new challenge for all of us,” Bean said. “We have perfected the process of bonding a human and a service dog, and it is a process that we have proven over and over that saves lives, lots of them. While saving the next 1,000 lives is important, our vision is much bolder, as we are focused on saving all the lives of veterans suffering from trauma caused by their service defending you and me. We will not stop until that mission has been achieved.”

K9s For Warriors, 1, 000th graduate, veterans