A Veteran’s Best Friend In 2004 a roadside bomb blast in Baghdad left Marine Corps Corporal Michael Jernigan with severe injuries and without sight. But upon coming home to St. Petersburg, Florida, the now retired Jernigan says his biggest challenge was something else. “In Iraq, I had a purpose to help 350 million people sleep safely at night. I had no purpose when I came home.” Afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and frustrated with a white cane, Jernigan received Brittani, a guide dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. “Not only did she help me get out of the house and back into life, but her companionship helped me so much. I had anxiety and would get close to my breaking point. She would make me pet her—before I knew it, I was in a better mood,” says Jernigan. Wanting to give other veterans the same chance to return to life, Jernigan co-founded the Paws for Patriots program at Southeastern Guide Dogs. The program pairs guide and service dogs with veterans and places therapy dogs into military hospitals. “You can’t see the scars from PTSD, but it’s very real and it hurts. Having a dog licking your face during a nightmare, having the companionship … it’s life-saving,” says Jernigan. Thanks to a $25,000 donation—raised from a year’s worth of fundraisers—from the Ponce Inlet Lions Club in Florida, one more veteran will heal with a companion like Brittani. A thankful Jernigan will continue working to help wounded warriors. Jernigan says, “I came home from war broken and bloody. Now I get to save people. It’s fulfilling to give back.” Lions, has your club heard from a recipient of your service or charity? Tell us about the feedback you’ve received from those whose lives you’ve changed for the better. Email a brief description to email@example.com. Please include “Thank You” in the subject line.
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