ROUND ROCK, TEXAS - Rebuilding Warriors, a non-profit group that helps match service dogs with veterans, did just that in North Austin Saturday morning.
At an informal ceremony outside the VFW Post 8787 in North Austin on Saturday morning, Rebuilding Warriors founder, Jeff Anderson, gave Jonathan Holloway the leash and took off the trainer collar and put on an owner collar on his new service dog, "Emma."
"I got involved because I have cousins, their whole families committed suicide minus one. It's an epidemic," said Anderson.
Holloway, 30, is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq before eventually developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Holloway told KVUE's Jenni Lee that he found life increasingly harder to live.
Even though he's married with three children, the Army veteran felt isolated.
"You feel all alone. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm here," said Holloway.
Holloway is a perfect example of what the Veterans Administration discovered this year. The VA released research that shows the risk of suicide for veterans is 21 percent higher when compared with civilians.
From 2001 to 2014, as the civilian suicide rate rose about 23.3 percent, the rate of suicide among veterans jumped more than 32 percent.
Holloway's wife was devastated when she learned her husband wanted to commit suicide.
"Yeah, I was pretty worried. It was hard to know what he was going through," said Holloway
When Holloway is around Emma, the difference the dog makes is visible. Holloway smiles and is more relaxed. Emma's job is to warn her owner that PTSD symptoms are on the horizon so Holloway can do something about it.
"That helps me out a lot. Just somebody that can know because sometimes I don't recognize it myself," explained Holloway.
Jennifer Holloway has a message for other families dealing with PTSD.
"Go to the VA, go talk to somebody, find a friend, talk to them, let them know," said Holloway.
Emma is one of dozens of dogs Rebuilding Warriors has given to veterans in seven state. Giving back to those who have served our country. Helping their reentry into civilian life, one doggie kiss and hug, at a time.
For more information, please click here on RebuildingWarriors.com.
Service dogs can do amazing things -- but not without your help.
They need people willing to raise puppies like CJ that will eventually become service dogs. WZZM 13's Valerie Lego is raising her until she's about a year for Paws With A Cause.
If you're interested in getting involved locally, you can contact Paws With A Cause.
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