Saturday, January 23, 2016

Firefighter-Iraq Veteran Marine Fights For PTSD Service Dog

Service dog leads to conflict, conversation about Joliet man's PTSD
Local veteran: Work dispute spotlights disconnect with disability rights
The Herald News
Lauren Leone-Cross
Jan. 21, 2016
Leverence – a firefighter and paramedic with the Aurora Fire Department and member of Aurora Firefighters Local 99 – said unchecked PTSD symptoms not only were getting in the way of his relationship with his wife and three daughters, but also were creating problems on the job.
Kevin Leverence sits on the floor with his service dog, America, after coming home from work as a firefighter Wednesday in Joliet.
JOLIET – Service dogs have for years helped people with physical disabilities, but increasingly they are being trained to help people cope with mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Among those people are veterans such as Kevin Leverence, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Joliet who earned a Purple Heart for injuries received during his nine-month deployment to Iraq in 2004.

Leverence is two months into his relationship with America, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever service dog from Puppies Behind Bars, an organization in which inmates train service dogs exclusively for veterans.
“My whole goal with this is to make this more normal. We’re going to see more and more service dogs, and better ways to handle mental health than with piles of pills,” Leverence said. “[I want to] bust this conversation wide open that it’s OK to have trouble.”
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