WWII hero gets honorary doctorate at FAU

Irwin Stovroff, a World War II hero, received an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic University. (submitted photo, FPG)

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The well-known twinkle in his eye was working overtime before Irwin Stovroff got to do something he never did before at 92.

“I’m still making news,” he said, jokingly, wearing academic garb before joining the procession at one of Florida Atlantic University’s commencement ceremonies.

With his golden retriever Cash by his side, Boca Raton’s celebrated World War II POW and wounded warrior benefactor received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from FAU president John Kelly and provost Gary Perry on April 30.

He was also the graduation speaker in a packed auditorium seating 2,400 grads and their families.

Sitting in a chair on stage, he told how the number of combat missions kept growing from 25 to 35 for a young Air Force 2nd lieutenant and bombardier. How he flew over Normandy in the D-Day invasion, and later had to bail out of a B-24 and was captured by the Nazis.

“I had to get of rid of my dog tags before they identified me as Jewish,” he said.

He talked about the terror of having a Nazi officer know exactly who he was, since he was raised in the same town.

“You were my parents’ newspaper boy,” the Nazi told him.

He even survived a German POW camp taken over by the Russians and had to wait out a prisoner swap.

After he came back stateside, Stovroff married and had a family and went on to a busy business career, he said.

But when he retired at 75, he started working in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Riviera Beach and discovered vets needed help they weren’t getting from the government. He started Vets Helping Heroes, and with his board and donors, has raised $4.5 million to pay for trained guide and service dogs for more than 400 military wounded.

“The dogs are not inexpensive and cost $10,000 for PTSD or $60,000 for someone who is blind,” he said.

All of this was part of his “flight plan,” Stovroff told the grads.

“Stay with your flight plan for the goals you have in life and put them up as high as you can, so when you reach up they’ll be there for you.”

The crowd gave Stovroff a standing ovation and roared their approval. Kelly called him inspiring, which prompted even more applause.

FAU graduated the largest class in its history, Kelly told the grads earlier.

“At our seven spring commencement ceremonies, we’re celebrating the graduation of 3,268 students,” from 52 countries, he noted. The student body is the most racially, ethnically and culturally diverse in the Florida State University System, he said.

Original article copied from the Sun Sentinel website
Marci Shatzman mshatzman@tribune.com
Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel
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In Boca, three generations of veterans recount their experiences

By Anne Geggis, Sun Sentinel, contact the reporter – 11/12/14

Kathy Champion, Mel Pollack and Irwin Stovroff

Across three generations from three different conflicts, the human toll paid when countries send their young men and women to fight was described in blood-drenched detail.

For Veteran’s Day, a pilot from World War II, another from Vietnam and a civilian affairs officer who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq came together at St. Andrews Country Club to bear witness to the suffering that killed and crippled some of their comrades.

Irwin Stovroff, 92, of Boca Raton, was a second lieutenant piloting his 35th bombing run of World War II when he was shot down over France and taken prisoner by Nazis. He spent 13 months in captivity.

Melvin Pollack, 72, of Delray Beach, was a U.S. Air Force lieutanant colonel on his 79th bombing run in the Vietnam conflict when he was shot down in 1967 and held prisoner in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” for five years and eight months.

Kathy Champion, 50, who lives north of Tampa, was a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served tours in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, working as a medical adviser in 2007 when she found she had contracted a virus called optic neuritis. She lost her sight from it.

The talk was part of an appeal to raise money for the Boca Raton-based charity, Vets Helping Heroes, which trains guide dogs for returning veterans. The audience was in awe after their stories.

“They are amazing; these people are heroes,” said Luis Perez, 57, of Boca Raton, who did his military service in the 1980s. “What they and their friends did … they sacrificed.”

All described moments of powerlessness.

For Stovroff, it was in the waning days of World War II, when he realized that all the names his Nazi captors were reading off to be sent from camp were all Jewish — including his.

Pollack recalled parachuting out of his plane and falling so hard to the earth, near the Chinese border with North Korea, that his helmet cracked. He looked up at the Vietnamese villagers who surrounded him and was shocked at the sight.

“Every one of them had a gun or a rifle, young and old,” he said.

(back)Mel Pollack, Don Werner
(middle)Kathy Champion, Irwin Stovroff
(front)Guide Dog George, Service Dog Cash
Angel (named in the article) was Kathy’s first guide dog

Champion described being in a Humvee in Baghdad, just five minutes out of the “safe” Green Zone, when the vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

“That was my introduction to Baghdad,” she said.

She was OK, but suffered four more attacks while deployed.

In the final attack, also from an improvised explosive device, her driver and the gunner who accompanied her were killed. She suffered facial injuries that took the sight in her left eye as well as severe injuries to her hip and shoulder.

Then while back in the U.S. the virus hit, taking the sight in her right eye.

But that wasn’t the worst of it, she said.

“I was a big, ‘Go get-em kind of girl,’” she said. “But I was crumbling. There were times I didn’t know why I was alive.”

Help, she said, arrived in the form of a black Labrador named Angel.

“I got something to be responsible for,” she said. “Something to help me.”

Ageggis@sun-sentinel.com, 561-243-6624 or Twitter @Anne Boca

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel
Read this article in the Sun Sentinel

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Irwin Stovroff Visits Normandy 70 Years Later

Irwin became the American Veteran Air Force "Rock Star" of Normandy and I grew muscles pushing him around in his aluminum wheel chair. Irwin's Doris and my wife, Barbara were thrilled to see the joy Irwin experienced during the entire trip.

We spent 3 days in Paris showing Irwin the best sites and food followed by a great Tauck river boat cruise to Normandy with other stops along the way. The high light of our journey was spending 2 days in Normandy with Jean-Pierre Paviot and family as they drove us to all the sites and arranged many of our visits.

As requested, Tauck responded in several ways to honor Irwin. Mr Tauck, Chairman of the Board wrote Irwin a wonderful letter of welcome and related his own experience in the Air Force. Tauck scheduled and published a notice in their on board daily bulletin advising that Irwin was invited to speak the day before reaching Normandy. Irwin was at his best and delivered a most effective speech on his military experience and how it brought him to develop Vets Helping Heroes. At the end of the speech he received a standing ovation with people coming up to thank him. Every day and night there after guests stopped Irwin to personally speak to him and many stated that they would be sending a donation to VHH on their return. Most guests advised us that Irwin was the high light of their cruise experience.

We were happy that John and Nelly Van Blois could join us for the day in Caen at the WW11 museum where Irwin was treated as royalty.

See all the photos from the trip

Irwin wore his French Legion of Honor medal and was instantly recognized as a hero to the French populations as well as Americans & others where ever we went and was thus surrounded with swarms of people to honor his service to their country and thanked him for helping to save France from the Nazi's.

We went to a number of other museums including the personal Museum of Leon Gautier a 92 year old Commando Veteran where Irwin received a medal for those Vets returning to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The medal was presented by the Monsieur Raphael Chauvois Vice President of Normandy Region. Leon and 177 Commandos invaded Sword beach and with help of the British overran the Nazi's and recaptured the area. We celebrated with the two 92 yr olds sitting side by side swapping war stories over a luncheon celebration with about 20 people. It was a grand day.

As part of the Riverboat program we visited a wonderful Chateau for dinner. Nicolas Navarro the owner was a collector of WW11 war objects using his gieger counter since was 13 years old. He purchased the Chateau after becoming successful to create a personal WW11 museum. Jean-Pierre by coincidence, also arranged for use to visit the same Chateau a few days later through his own connections.

Nicolas was fascinated with Irwin's history and wanted him back for a special celebration to honor Irwin. He has engaged a number of local men and women to dress is US Army and US Air Force uniforms and had WW11 Jeeps and other vehicles to set the scene by the Chateau and Museum. The boutique Museum had a wonderful collection of arms, uniforms and various war equipment from German, American, British etc armies. After viewing the museum we all gathered outside by the Chateau and military vehicles as Jean-Pierre spoke to the group in French followed by Irwin's presentation that was covered by French newspaper and TV reporters. His speech was very well received followed by numerous questions and much interest in VHH.

Our last visit of the trip was to visit the area that Irwin was shot down 70 years prior almost to the day. This was Irwin's expressed desire and the reason for the trip. We drove an hour to meet the Philippe Cadard family who also developed a small WW11 museum and was in the area where Irwin parachuted down to. After touring and a nice lunch we discussed the area that their property overlooked and Philippe was sure that was the area Irwin landed. When we left we were not really sure he was correct but Irwin received another German document that certified that the area in fact was exactly at the spot we were at. We were both delighted that he full filed his wish.

We both want to express our sincere appreciation to Jean-Pierre for his extensive efforts to make Irwin's visit to France not only enjoyable but successful.

Don Werner
Chairman of the Board
Vets Helping Heroes

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L.A. Weiser’s “An Extraordinary Life . . . Gone to the Dogs”

Written by John Stemple and originally posted on 20thCenturyAviationMagazine.com

"An Extraordinary Life . . . Gone to the Dogs"
Irwin Stovroff, from Buffalo, New York, arrived in England during 1944 and one of his first operational missions took place on D-Day. Mr. Stovroff, born of Russian parents from Siberia, related to writer Lisa Weiser accounts of wartime life in Scotland and England and the daily encounters with death faced by the British, British Commonwealth and American personnel posted to RAF Shipdham in East Anglia.

Months later, he confided, the U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber “The Passion Pit” on which Irwin Stovroff served as bombardier met its death as a result of flak. The 20-year-old second lieutenant was on his 35th and final required bombing mission. Irwin parachuted to earth, braving small arms fire as he descended, and landed on Nazi-occupied soil. Once on the ground Irwin removed his Dog Tags, which were stamped with the letter “H” (meaning “Hebrew”/Jew) and disposed of them to hide his religious affiliation.

Readers subsequently learn of Stovroff’s frightening experiences at the hands of suspicious and intimidating Luftwaffe (Nazi Germany’s air force) interrogators, one of whom deduced Irwin’s ethnicity while the unfortunate airman was being held at Dulag Luft. Next come details of Mr. Stovroff’s inhumane transport by railroad car to Stalag Luft I, during which he was nearly killed by Allied aircraft as a result of their bombing and strafing. At that time, Weiser quotes Irwin as saying, “Prayers were rattled off in many religions. . . .”

Irwin Stovroff additionally recalls his interactions with fellow prisoners and the legendary American ace Colonel “Hub” Zemke, his commanding officer while interred. Irwin also described the final days of the war and liberation by Soviet soldiers, his volunteering to liberate those still living inside the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp and eventual evacuation to “Camp Lucky Strike” in France via a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Additionally, within the pages of Weiser’s work one learns about Mr. Stovroff’s sampling of foreign cultures, mores and women.

Mr. Irwin Stovroff was awarded the Air Medal, the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Having personally suffered, it is understandable that he eventually founded the nonprofit “Vets Helping Heroes” in Greenacres, Florida. According to the website, the organization is “dedicated to providing assistance dogs for active duty military and retired veterans recovering from the physical and psychological challenges they suffered as a result of their service to our country.” Ms. Weiser states the following about Irwin Stovroff: “Now after a lifetime of giving back to his country, he is still liberating other men trapped from disabilities with the service of dogs.”

An Extraordinary Life . . . Gone to the Dogs is self-published by Lisa A. Weiser. Profits from sales benefit Vets Helping Heroes. This review is based upon the first edition, but a revised and improved version is now available. Copies may be purchased by contacting L.A. Weiser at Her Website (Below).

ReadWeiser.com or at VetsHelpingHeroes.org/shop

Irwin Stovroff at about 20 years old  Irwin Stovroff's plane is shot down - 1944  Irwin Stovroff with Cash and Jenny - 2013
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WLRN film tells stories of Florida Jews in the military

Sun-Sentinal, May 8, 2014 | By Johnny Diaz, Staff writer, 954-356-4939

“Jews in the Military” will be TV at 9 p.m. May 13, 18 and 29, WLRN-Ch. 17 in Fort Lauderdale-Miami and West Palm Beach TV markets
A Call to Serve - Jews in the Military
In “A Call To Serve: Florida Jews and the Military,” retired… (Steve Waxman/Courtesy)

A natural storyteller, Steve Waxman just had to share what he found at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU three years ago.

The “Jews in the Military” exhibit spoke to the South Florida filmmaker of heroes — both known and unsung — who’d risked it all in campaigns ranging from the Seminole Wars of the 1800s to the more recent battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The result is the new documentary, “A Call to Serve: Florida Jews and the U.S. Military,” which will air at 9 p.m. May 13, 18 and 29 on WLRN-Ch. 17. A screening Wednesday at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale has sold out.

“These people who were all Jewish wanted to pay back the country for being so good to them,” says Waxman, of Hollywood, who has also produced other locally-based WLRN documentaries including 2011′s “Prohibition and the South Florida Connection” and last year’s “Instruments of Change” on segregation.

“There were so many fabulous photos and so much interesting paraphernalia [in the exhibit],” he says. “Here is a documentary that was waiting to be made.”

It took some time for Waxman to track down soldiers, pilots, medics and prisoners of war, as well as family members and descendants, for interviews.

The hour long film highlights figures such as: Mack Katz, who served in the U.S. marine corps during World War I before launching Fort Lauderdale’s first women’s clothing shop, Mack’s; famed Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus, who designed the signal search light used by the military to send codes during World War II; and Miami Beach Mayor Mitchell Wolfson, who resigned from office to fight the Nazis.

But unsung veterans make up the bulk of the documentary, like Lettie Bien, a retired U.S. Army colonel who fought in Iraq.

“I went into the military on a dare. I remember thinking, “What was this nice Jewish girl from Miami doing in the military?” “she tells viewers, noting that Iraqis” looked at American women almost like a third species. We commanded men. We wore weapons. We were just sort of shocking in a way to the Iraqis.”

Also featured is Boca Raton resident Irwin Stovroff, a retired Army Air Corps lieutenant who was a prisoner-of-war in Germany after his bomber was shot down during WWII.

Stovroff helped connect Waxman with other local vets including Delray Beach’s Mel Pollack, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew 78 missions in Vietnam, then spent five years and eight months as a POW.

Waxman says the documentary serves as a visual diary of today’s veterans, many of whom are well into their 80s and 90s.

“These guys aren’t a dime a dozen,” Waxman says. “A lot of these guys are dying and you want to get them on record.”

“Jews in the Military” will be TV at 9 p.m. May 13, 18 and 29

WLRN-Ch. 17 in Fort Lauderdale-Miami and West Palm Beach TV markets

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Veterans’ Service Dogs Receive Full Medical Insurance

January 30, 2014
By: Edie Lau
For The VIN News Service

Service dogs belonging to American military veterans are now covered by comprehensive private health insurance under a new arrangement by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

A contract between the VA and the company Trupanion provides payment for care by licensed veterinarians of working service and guide dogs that have been approved by the VA as medically necessary for VA-enrolled veterans, according to the agency.

Free Vet Care for Service Dogs
For now, that amounts to about 400 dogs, VA spokeswoman Genevieve Billia said by email. “The number will fluctuate as new dogs are enrolled, or as the animals die or retire,” Billia said.

The agreement with the insurer, which took effect Jan. 27, is known as an “Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity” contract, which means the cost of the contract to the government varies depending on the number of dogs being covered. Billia said the maximum allotted by the government for the contract is $5.6 million over two years. Essentially, the government is paying an insurance premium for each enrolled dog, Trupanion spokeswoman Britta Gidican said.

The insurance provides 100 percent payment for all wellness and sick care for eligible dogs. Services and products not covered are: elective surgery; non-prescription medications and other over-the-counter items, including flea control; non-prescription food, including dietary supplements and weight-loss diets; non-sedated teeth cleaning; boarding that is not medically necessary; grooming and nail trimming.

The dogs are eligible as long as they are working. “When the dog reaches an age or condition such that it can no longer provide the services for which it is trained, then the dog is retired from service” and its government-paid coverage is suspended, according to Billia.

Eligible dogs are given identification tags showing their respective policy numbers, and their owners receive identification cards, as well, Gidican said. Veterinarians seeing a covered patient may be paid immediately by calling the insurance company to obtain a credit-card payment. Gidican said Trupanion is making staff available 24 hours a day every day to provide the service.

Veterinarians also may opt to install a computer application in order to be paid electronically, or submit bills by email or fax, which typically would be paid within 48 hours, Gidican said.

The program “empowers and encourages veterinarians to simply do what is absolutely the best for the dog, no matter the cost,” Gidican said. “Veterinarians can always go with Plan A now when treating and caring for veteran-owned service dogs in this program.”

The program involves no restrictions on pricing, such as is common in health insurance for people. “We do not determine the price of the medical care,” Gidican said “We don’t negotiate it; we don’t have benefit-scheduling.”

She added: “We really want veterinarians to know this isn’t a joke. Their bills are really being paid by us, promise.”

Gidican said the company is hopeful no practitioner would attempt to take advantage of the program. “We have to put some things into place to make sure we’re not getting scammed,” she acknowledged. “We’ll work it out. We just haven’t quite thought of that at all.”

She added, “We are predicting an uptick in veterinary visits simply because all of the services will be paid for now.”

While private insurance coverage for veterans’ service dogs is new, government-paid medical coverage for the dogs is not. The VA has paid their veterinary bills since 1961, administering the program in-house, agency spokeswoman Billia said.

The provision of commercial insurance for veterinary care of veterans’ service dogs and guide dogs was written in a federal regulation published in September 2012.

Billia said the VA recognizes guide dogs for blindness and vision impairments; and service dogs for deafness and mobility disorders. The insurance coverage also extends to dogs acquired through a VA Office of Research contract for participation in a study on the use of service dogs by veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The agency does not recognize animals other than dogs as service animals. Pets and comfort or companion animals are not eligible for the insurance program, nor are retired military working dogs.

Trupanion was one of three private insurance companies to compete for the contract, the VA said. The privately held company was founded in Canada in 1999, and expanded to the United States in 2007 with offices in Seattle. Gidicam said the company became licensed to insure in all 50 states in 2012.

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Cesar’s Top 9 Holiday Tips for Dogs

Originally posted on CesarsWay.com

Holiday tips for dog owners
1. Tire your dog out before visiting or receiving holiday guests.
Keep in mind that holiday visits are not typical visits. They may involve more heightened energy than normal, since often we haven’t seen these people in a while, and dog people have a tendency to get excited around others’ pets. Your dog is more likely to behave if it’s just had a nice long walk. If they’re not dog people, your guest may be nervous, insecure, and unsure; a tired dog can help these people relax.

2. Don’t forget rules, boundaries, and limitations just because it’s the holidays!

When it comes to the aromatic holiday food, sweets, and candies lying about the house, there are many temptations for your dog. You have to remind him or her that the rules, boundaries, and limitations are the same. Use the holiday as a chance to intensify good behavior instead of intensifying bad behavior. It’s up to you to take the opportunity to make it a great holiday by working on your leadership skills!

3. Protect your dog from the cold.

Many breeds are not built to handle cold weather. Check out your local pet store for the many ways to handle this. You can buy doggie boots and gear made specifically for cold weather. There are also paw waxes that protect from the cold and aid your dog’s grip on slippery surfaces like ice or snow.

Holiday tips for dog owners

4. Let your dog check the weather.

Dogs don’t have the Weather Channel, so they don’t know why they are being denied a long walk for the day. Allow your dog to step outside and feel for itself that it is too cold or too stormy to go on a long walk. Instinctually, the dog will understand why it is coming back inside where it’s safe. But, be careful not to allow them to do this too often. They can learn to use this open door to manipulate and control you. Also, some dogs, if out in the cold for too long, will develop thicker fur and maintain their fat as a natural protection, so they may not feel the cold as intensely as we humans do. This can be an advantage if you want to continue to take your dog for walks in cold weather. However, please keep in mind that many short-haired breeds do not have this natural resistance to cold weather.

5. Be cautious when around the fireplace!

Animals are instinctual about fire; it is natural for an animal to stay away. However, during this holiday season, many owners like to dress their dogs up. Never use a product which may contain alcohol, such as hairspray, silly string, or entertainment paint, on a dog that will be around fire. Always be cautious near a fire with an animal that is wearing clothing. A stray piece of fabric can quickly cause the entire outfit to light on fire. A screen is a good way to keep a “done-up” pup safe. Also, never leave an animal alone in a room with a lit candle. As a general holiday precaution, test your smoke alarms, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times!

6. Be aware of dangerous holiday items.

The festive poinsettia causes dogs to vomit. Chocolate is a poisonous treat. And tinsel has sent many a dog to the emergency room, as it can easily cut up intestines. Paper-based tinsel is generally a safer option, but the plastic or metallic-based varities should not be used.

7. Protect your presents and decorations.

Remember that a dog will know if a gift contains something edible, even if you don’t. Ask your guests in advance if there is food inside the presents, and keep them out of your dog’s reach! Keep fragile ornaments toward the top of the Christmas tree; only place sturdy ones near the bottom. Often people use a pen to keep dogs away from their tree. Keep it fun by decorating the pen with ribbons. And, above all, set rules, boundaries, and limitations!

Holiday tips for dog owners
8. I don’t recommend giving a puppy as a holiday gift.

Most often, giving a puppy for emotional reasons turns out badly. Love is never the problem. Who doesn’t love a puppy? But most people don’t know how to keep a puppy balanced, and the puppy is going to suffer the consequences from the first day. In particular, if a person doesn’t know they are getting a puppy, they will be in the wrong state of mind to receive him or her. I highly recommend holding off on affection for a week or, at the very least, until the end of the day when the puppy is quiet, in his kennel, and ready for sleep. This is virtually impossible to do if you just received a puppy as a surprise!

I strongly believe that people need to have some basic knowledge about the commitment and responsibility of pet ownership and how to play a leadership role even though it’s a puppy. The beautiful part about starting with a puppy is that, if you know what to do, you are going to prevent problems. But if you don’t, you are going to create problems. We have to take the same philosophy as adopting a child. You don’t just give a kid away. You have to get the whole family involved. Everyone has to understand the responsibility they are taking on.

9. Live in the moment! Be happy! Laugh! Celebrate!

Want to do something special for your dog for the holidays? Be balanced. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be fearful. Don’t be tense. Don’t think about anything that makes you sad, depressed, or angry. Really live in that moment. Believe it or not, that is one of the biggest gifts we can give to our dog–and ourselves! Everyone, rich or poor, can practice this simple activity. It has more meaning than any gift you can buy.

Live in the now, with your dog right next to you and your family around you. Your dog is going to get the benefit of it, particularly if you don’t have days like this on a regular basis. This special day will linger in his or her memory, and, hopefully, you can learn to practice these days more often, not just during the holiday season.

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On this Veterans Day

Most Americans have never fought in a war, never smelled fear and ammunition in combat, never worried about being blown up by a roadside bomb. This Veterans Day, we as Americans need to remember those who fought for our country while we stayed safe, out of the crossfire.

Please not to let this Veterans Day go past without participating in a way that enriches your sense of duty and country while reminding veterans that they will not be forgotten.

Not just on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but with a daily Armistice in our hearts.

Vets Helping Heroes (VHH) is a national non profit organization that provides professionally trained dog’s for every veteran who needs, wants and who could benefit from the services that only a guide or service dog can provide. These are no ordinary dogs we’re talking about. They are the equivalent of elite commandos, called on to give their all. Screening a dog for requisite traits like patience, intelligence and confidence, and then training a dog to observe and react to subtle changes in an environment or in an owner’s behavior, is a lengthy and expensive process. The cost ranges between $10,000 – $60,000 per dog which our veterans simply cannot afford.

Vets Helping Heroes provides service dogs at no cost to the veteran. These dogs make the difference between an active life and an isolated one for our nations veterans who gave so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

To all of our U.S. veterans, thank you for your service!

Original post date: 11/10/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes

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An Ally in Healing

Children and service dogsSome families have spent years living with the nightmares, depression and anger of a veteran’s PTSD, while desperately trying to find ways to cope. Others are just getting started.

“When one person joins, the whole family serves” is a common saying among military personnel. Over two million children in the United States have had a parent deployed to active military duty since the start of the Global War on Terrorism. According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 1.3 million military children that are school age.

Readjustment to civilian life following military service presents a challenge not only to the Veteran, but to the family. Deployed service members return to their children, spouses, and families with visible and invisible injuries, such as combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Military children live with the constant fear of losing a parent, parental separation, moving and making new friends, all while living in a household with one often overloaded parent, holding down the fort. The dynamics of welcoming a returning parent that has been injured physically or mentally is real. The Veterans Administration now estimates that a Veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes. “Secondary PTSD” is a diagnosis that is becoming a reality for many military families. Managing stress as a family needs to be a high priority.

Vets Helping Heroes (VHH) honors the courage of our nation’s heroes and their families, both on the battlefield and at home. VHH is committed to providing professionally trained guide and service dogs to Veterans, active duty and their families.

The dogs we provide are irreplaceable. Beyond helping the Veteran they help the family:

  • Decrease feelings of isolation and increased sense of well-being.
  • Daily structure and healthy habits and motivation to exercise.
  • Increase sense of security and non-judgmental, affectionate companionship.
  • Increased sense of self-esteem and optimism.

The relationship that a dog can offer is unique because it is deep and loving, yet uncomplicated, consistent, and safe from the possibility of rejection. To date, there are volumes of scientific data that suggests that dogs positively influence us on psychological and physiological levels. It is no mystery why dogs are called “man’s best friend”.

Original post date: 11/09/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes

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Friday, September 20, 2013 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day

We couldn’t let it go by without honoring two very special people, Irwin Stovroff, WWII, Ex-Pow, Founder and President of Vets Helping Heroes, and LT COL Melvin Pollack, US Air Force (ret.), Ex-POW and member of the Board of Directors. It is truly an honor to have you lead the VHH organization and thank you for your sacrifice and service.

Get ready to wag.

On this day many Americans pause to remember our nations service men and women who were prisoners of war (POW), as well as those who are missing in action (MIA), and their families. All military installations fly the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag, which symbolizes the nation’s remembrance of those who were imprisoned while serving in conflicts and those who remain missing.

Currently there are more than 83,000 Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing In Action (MIA) who are either unaccounted for or still missing. 1,741 American personnel are listed by the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Office as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. About 90 percent of the 1,741 people still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control, according to the National League of Families website (cited in the United States Army website).

The POW/MIA flag was designed by Newt Heisley and features a silhouette of a young man who was medically discharged from the military. As Mr. Heisley looked at his returning son’s gaunt features, he imagined what life was for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. The emblem features a white disk bearing in black silhouette the bust of a man (Jeffery Heisley), watch tower with a guard on patrol, and a strand of barbed wire; above the disk are the white letters POW and MIA framing a white 5-pointed star; below the disk is a black and white wreath above the white motto: “You are not Forgotten.” The National POW/MIA Day is recognized on the 3rd Friday of September.

The National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag symbolizes the United States’ resolve to never forget POWs or those who served their country in conflicts and are still missing. We will never forget you!

Original post date: 09/19/2013
Article written by: Kathy Genovese, Board of Directors, Vets Helping Heroes
Posted in Special dates, Uncategorized | Leave a comment