Thomas & Valor
Hope for a Healing Hero
For Thomas, a U.S. Navy veteran with a career spanning over two decades, including deployments to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and South America, returning to civilian life marked the beginning of a new battle. Struggling with the effects of PTSD and service-related injuries that curtailed his mobility, Thomas grappled with a loss of his sense of purpose and independence. Once a world traveler and confident leader, Thomas found hardship in daily tasks such as going to the grocery store and walking up and down the stairs.
Determined to reclaim his life, Thomas knew he needed to make a positive change. “I decided I had to do anything I could to get my life back on track. I heard many times how a service dog could help, and I knew I was all in,” says Thomas. As a first step, Thomas and his wife attended the 2022 Freedom Service Dogs Graduation Ceremony. Although he left feeling unsure if a service dog was right for him, Thomas decided to take a leap of faith and apply to receive his very own hero with four paws.
In the summer of 2023, Thomas was matched with Valor, a handsome and aptly named black Labrador retriever. Trained to retrieve dropped items, make space in crowds, assist with mobility, interrupt nightmares, and help Thomas feel more secure in public, Valor quickly became a bright light in Thomas’s life. In addition to providing Thomas with companionship and assisting him on a daily basis, Valor also connected Thomas to the supportive community at FSD. “Getting Valor felt hopeful. Truly hopeful,” Thomas recalled.
It didn’t take long for Thomas and Valor to warm up to one another. Within days of going home as partners, Thomas felt a rekindled sense of hope and freedom. “Valor forces me to not only get out, but I also have to interact with people when they ask me about Valor. At first, I was reluctant, but it’s gotten a lot better. 90% of the time they’re good interactions. I’m excited to tell people about Valor and FSD,” Thomas shared. Since regaining independence and confidence with Valor by his side, Thomas has started sharing his story with the community and other veterans in need. As Thomas puts it, “Having Valor is far beyond just having a well-trained dog. He’s a package deal. Yes, I have a service dog that is my battle buddy, but I also have someone who depends on me and vice versa. He also reminds me of where I’ve been and encourages me to help others.”
In September of 2023, Thomas and Valor made the trip to Midland, Texas to speak at Freedom Service Dogs’ annual Faces of Freedom Sporting Clays Tournament – something Thomas never would have imagined doing before Valor. Not only did Valor assist him while traveling and during the speech he delivered to hundreds of attendees, but Valor also gave Thomas the encouragement he needed to participate in the tournament. “I got this dog and suddenly FSD became a whole bigger picture. Now I go on trips and to concerts,” Thomas shared excitedly.
You can make a difference in the lives of veterans like Thomas by donating to Operation Freedom: Hope for Heroes HERE. Now through November 11, all donations will be matched up to $250,000.
To learn more about applying for a Freedom Service Dog, click HERE.