March 7, 2016
"While Casillo isn’t a combat veteran himself, his wife is a lieutenant colonel in the Alaska Air National Guard."
Musher Rick Casillo checks the heat on his cooker. Mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race came and went from the Rainy Pass checkpoint for much of the day Monday. Marc Lester / ADNRAINY PASS LODGE — Jeff Turkel traveled to the Rainy Pass checkpoint Monday to heal.
The 56-year-old once served in the U.S. Air Force and worked in Iraq in 2004 as an employee with the Department of Defense, he said. The jobs left him battling flashbacks. He said doctors told him the post-traumatic stress disorder triggered his seizures.
“Basically I lose all cognitive functions. My brain shuts down. I weaken,” Turkel said, standing in the snow Monday and awaiting the arrival of musher Rick Casillo. “I lose all touch with reality. It’s kind of like a fainting spell, but worse.”
Iditarod veteran Casillo started Battle Dawgs four years ago for combat veterans, aiming to “change and save lives,” he said. The nonprofit connects veterans with the outdoors and promotes teamwork in an effort to shrink suicide rates, Casillo said. He takes the veterans on glacier tours, ice fishing trips and asks them to help out with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
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Reminder: It is not "22 a day" and until folks stop repeating "just a number" they will continue to feel like they just don't matter enough.