Healing Soldiers, One Dog At A Time - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Healing Soldiers, One Dog At A Time

Joseph Jones, Jr., a Vietnam War veteran, spends some quality time with guide dog Bruce, at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Florida. Joseph Jones, Jr., a Vietnam War veteran, spends some quality time with guide dog Bruce, at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Florida.

MSNBC.COM - Irwin Stovroff is a true American hero – not only for what he did 70 years ago, but for what he accomplishes today.

During World War II, the 20-year-old airman was on his 35th bombing mission when the enemy shot down his B-24 Liberator over German-occupied France.

In Stovroff's home a photo hanging on the wall shows the exact moment his plane nosedived to the ground, billowing smoke. In the picture, taken by an airman flying in another bomber, tiny white dots depict the 10 crewmen who parachuted to the ground.

He remembers being scared and "cursing Hitler all the way down."

Landing right behind enemy lines, Stovroff and his crew were immediately captured by German forces. "This was one time I really did not think I was going to make it," he said.

He believes quick thinking helped save him. Stovroff said he threw away the dog tags that identified him as Jewish, and spent the next year in a Nazi POW camp before being freed by Russian forces. Upon returning to the U.S., Stovroff earned the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, and eventually, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Knowing first-hand the horrors of war, the 89-year-old is now on a new mission -- helping wounded soldiers.

After learning that the federal government has no program to match injured soldiers with service dogs, Stovroff started a charity in 2007 called Vets Helping Heroes. Since then, he's raised $3 million to supply vets with seeing-eye and therapy dogs.  

"I really recognize what a dog can mean, what a dog can do for somebody," he told NBC's "Nightly News." "The dog is a true lifesaver."

The highly trained service dog, Stovroff said, can give the wounded warrior "mobility, independence and a companionship that he can't get from any other way."

Lt. Col. Kathy Champion served with distinction for 27 years and commanded a special combat unit in Iraq. After, returning home, she went blind from a mysterious virus she contracted in Iraq that attacked her spinal cord. At first, Champion shut herself off from family and friends.

"I became a hermit in my own house," she said. "I quit school. I quit my job. I quit being social. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I stopped answering phone calls from my son and daughter. I didn't tell anybody what was wrong. I didn't want anyone to know I wasn't the soldier I had been." click here to read more

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