Step into one Veteran’s story:
“I am a US veteran. I have seen war through outside-the-wire missions where I worked to make sure my brothers and sisters were safe. I was in a gun fight and witnessed the soldiers around me mourn the death of an ally. My work in the service was one of the most dangerous jobs but I served without question. Despite the hazards of my work, I saved lives and made it possible for many soldiers, airmen, and marines to come home.
With all that I’ve given, I, and many veterans like me, are only able to retire when we are told we can. Usually, it is when we are too old to do anything else or when we have health issues. After the ceremonies, I am left on my own and at the mercy of one of my battle buddies to provide food and housing. A little while into my retirement, my health issues progressed, and I now have cancer. My medicine is expensive. What started at $100 a month can now reach thousands at times. I don’t have money or VA benefits.
I saved lives and was nominated for a bronze star and this is my life now. All I have is the compassion and mercy of my battle buddy who struggles with tough decisions on my care.
Why am I, and other veterans like me, separated from service this way? There is one reason, my name is Uudensi, and I walk on four legs, not two.” – on behalf of Uudensi, US Military Working Dog
Uudensi’s handler, SSgt Rachel Hootman, K9 Security Forces at Tyndall AFB granted me permission to put words to Uudensi’s story. Permission was granted to bring light to a situation of which many of us are unaware – Veterans overlooked.
The journey my son’s service has set me on has been focused on the human segment of the military community. To my chagrin, while I thought I was looking out for the military community, I overlooked an important, revered segment of the Veteran community, the military working dogs (MWDs). While the role of MWDs is vital to military strategies and our troops’ safety, there are no benefits after separation from service. It falls upon the handlers to make difficult decisions. If they choose to accept responsibility for care, the expense is theirs to fit into their budget and the many milestones of their lives.
SSgt Rachel Hootman and Uudensi are an example of a handler going above and beyond to see that a Veteran is cared for with dignity. There are many others.
March 13, 2023 is K-9 Veterans Day, officially recognized in a few states. We can all honor their service by learning about them and remembering their contribution. While discussions continue to gain benefits for retired MWDs like Uudensi, organizations like these listed below, are ways we can support improving the quality of life for both the MWDs and their handlers:
- Project K-9 Hero https://projectk9hero.org/pages/about-us
- Military Working Dog Team Support Association, Inc. https://www.mwdtsa.org/donations/
LoudAndClearAdvisor.com is committed to finding resources to add to the directory for both MWDs and their handlers. Know of an organization in place to support MWDs? email email@example.com.
Join me in helping to raise awareness of organizations that support MWD’s, their handlers, and those lobbying for VA benefits for MWDs.