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Thursday, February 19, 2015

A VETS WALK Benefit For Joe Miller By Monica Thomas

Joe Miller and his girlfriend Amy Handy are like many couples after a wounded vet comes home, left to struggle through the government beauracracy. Through no fault of theirs or our local offices here in Potter County they find themselves a square peg in a round hole.

Joe is a decorated Purple Heart Recipient of a twelve year career in the Army cut short by a IED ( Improvise explosive device). He was trained as a Calvary Scout whose duties can include long and short range reconisence and
working with every weapon system along with training in explosives, communication, fire support form mortars and artillitary. This also included communications with aircraft and ground. When sent to Irag his duties where to do route clearance( clearing the roads ways of possible roadside bombs), doing cordon searches of houses for insurgents and weapons.

While deployed as a Calvary Scout with a Special Operations Command in 2005 & 2006 he was assigned as a liaison to a company of Iraqi soldiers and Joe was severely injured. On May 10, 2006 he was involved in exploring a roadside bomb on a highway securing the area. "I was outside my vehicle when the first bomb went off less than 10 meters away from me. It knocked me to the ground, once I checked on my gunner and driver to make sure they were okay and radioed the rest of the platoon to let them know we were okay and moving off the overpass it happened again. As we continued driving slowly off the bridge, I was walking next to them when the second IED went off below us 15-20 ft. It was such a big blast, it picked me up and I landed on the hood of the hummvie, eventually depositing me on the other side of the truck. No one saw what happened to me, I had shrapnel in my arm, a severe concussion, and injured my back. The guys inside the truck were okay. I went onto serve another five years with a tour in Japan 12/2007-10/2010 and my final in Hawaii 10/2010-10/2011.

He stated during our interview, "Never in my wildest thoughts would I have guessed I would have ended up like this, I'm a young man yet I'm deteriorating at a rapid rate". Jon's TBI doctor recommended a Mobility Service Dog this past August. He suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury and has fallen fourteen times in the last eight months. He has since incurred another bad concussion, along with deficiencies on his left side and balance issues. His casemanger at the VA researched several resources but in the end he did not qualify for them.

So enters Socon a pure bread Cane Corso Bull Mastiff into Jon and Amy's life. A friend of his living in Hawaii had one and he remembered that the dog was a gentle giant. After doing research, he and Amy decided for a man his size, he needed a dog that could pull his weight but also had a calming demeanor, a Cane Corso Bull Mastiff fits the bill. They found a local breeder in Jamestown, NY., and went out to find their match. They also found a trainer in Olean, N'Y., Steve Phillips, Independent Philips Command Dogs.

"When we started this we were not sure how the military could help us and have invested $2900 of our own money into something to help me have a quality of life. I'm a big fellow, Amy can not pick me up and once down I can not pull up my own weight. We had no idea the expense of training the dog along with the custom harness, leashes, vets, collar, obedience equipment that would be needed". They are looking upwards of $10,000 but have since discovered there are programs available to people with disabilities to finance a dog, but, not the training of a dog you all ready have.

A Mobility Service Dog on command will be able to to support Jon's weight, if he falls again. With a special harness that has handles on each side he will be able to raise himself with the dogs help. Something his girlfriend Amy worries about because she is not able to lift him. The handles on this special harness allows the dog to help him get up, and balance him so He doesn't fall. Jon goes on to state, "The other feature of having Socon is for my PTSD: I dislike crowds and with him I'm able better sustain it, he picks up on my moods and he leans into me to take my focus of the stressor and onto him". A new type of animal people therapy that has shown great promise with Vietnam Vets.

Several benefits have been set up in the area to assist Jon the first to be at the Shinglehouse,Volunteer Fire Dept. & Ambulance Association, 121 S. Puritan St., Shinglehouse, Pa. February 22nd 1-4 pm. a spaghetti dinner with a Chinese auction and raffles. On May 2nd the American Legion of Alleghany, N.Y. will be hosting a chicken bar b cue with Jon's uncle Bob cooking his famous recipe from Rixford, Pa. For those who can not make either benefit an Internet site is available for donation at www.gofundme.com. (Jon Bull Miller). The young couple have raised $1500 toward their goal and have decided if they raise more then $10,000 they have set up a fund with Steve Phillips to help another vet in this situation ( pay it forward).

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

This is a very telling and informative article. Thanks Monica.

I don't understand why the VA doesn't have a program to fund these special animals. They are as essential to life as a prosthetic limb.

In addition to making a donation, contact Glenn Thompson and our senators and suggest this.

We have a slew of programs in America that "reward" people who have never worked a day in theie lives and have contributed nothing to society, yet are fully supported by taxpayers.

It's a disgrace we don't take better care of TBI casualties. We worry about concussions at all levels of society, especially in our sports "heroes". This man is a legitimate hero and his concussion and TBI were incurred fighting our wars. I just don't get it. The training of the dog should be part of the package and not treated separately.

Maybe there's more to this story that we'll never learn, but on the surface it's shameful. Absolutely shameful.

Anonymous said...

I cannot find anything on GoFundMe. Is his first name Joe, or Jon? It seems to change here. I can't really follow this very well and I know people who might want to help.

Anonymous said...

I tried that go fund me too and got no where. Can help be sent to fire dept??