A Maryland organization enlists service members and veterans with combat stress to train service dogs for their fellow wounded warriors.
"We teach guys like me to train service dogs for disabled veterans, and that saved my life," retired U.S. Marines Sgt. Matt Moores said.
Moores joined the Marines in 2009 at 26 years old. He commanded a tank in Afghanistan.
“We were ambushed in September of 2013, and my tank was destroyed by an IED,” he said.
He suffered traumatic brain and back injuries and post-traumatic stress. He felt guilty and blamed himself.
Warrior Canine Connection put Moores together with service dog James.
“He wants to remind me to sort of come back out of the story, and there’s real value in that,” Moores said.
On an old dairy farm in Boyds, Warrior Canine Connection trains golden retriever puppies to be the next generation of service dogs. The organization works with patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The program has touched 4,000 service members and veterans, founder and Executive Director Rick Yount said.
"It's something outside themselves, and they'll stretch themselves and do things that they never would because they're focused on the mission,” Yount said. “It's not about them."
Veterans who receive canine warriors are never alone.
"Take a beautiful golden retriever out to a baseball game or at the Nats’ stadium or even the Metro or anywhere and try to isolate, just try,” Yount said. “Good luck. It won't happen."
In addition to studying anthropology, Moores has a new mission for the military: Working for Warrior Canine Connection.
James was placed with Moores in October, but their affection started well before. Moores trained James and other service dogs.
"That has made me whole again," he said.