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Veterans Moving Forward:

Training 'Battle Buddies' For Former Soldiers

Article by Gordon Sumner, PhD

Photography by Veterans Moving Forward

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Meet Ashley, Service Dog in Training (SDiT). Ashley is a chocolate Labrador Retriever in the last of her two years of training with Veterans Moving Forward, a non-profit headquartered in Dulles, Virginia. The organization provides trained service dogs to veterans dealing with physical and/or mental health challenges at no cost to the veteran or their family. 

As a reminder of those who paid the ultimate price for their country, SDiT Ashley is named in honor and memory of Army First Lieutenant Ashley White. 1st Lt. White was killed during combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on October 22, 2011 when the assault force she was supporting triggered an improvised explosive device. Ashley was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Badge.

Veterans Moving Forward acquires puppies from selected local breeders with whom it has developed very special relationships over the years, and matches its trained animals with vets largely on the basis of temperament. They are then trained by Master Trainer Katie Poulson; two dozen already are serving in the field. 

When trained, SDiT Ashley will become a special “Battle Buddy” for a deserving veteran to provide support and assistance including obedience training, retrieving medicines for the veteran, and learning how to ease their companion's anxiety when they encounter a mental challenge. Ashley is in the process of being placed with her veteran, living in Montana, a process which takes 8 months. 

Veterans Moving Forward relies entirely on donations to acquire, raise and train its dogs for deployment as canine companions. They have a critical need for volunteers to support their efforts in fundraising, marketing, puppy sitting, puppy raising and puppy walkers. Hours are flexible and can be on an as-needed basis. Also needed administrative, IT or general office volunteers. Veterans or those with experience working with veterans and of course experienced dog trainers and handlers are also welcome!

Donations, and particularly monthly commitments, can have a lasting impact on the lives of veterans across the country.

Veterans Moving Forward, 44225 Mercure Circle Ste 130 Dulles, Virginia, 20166. See: https://vetsfwd.org/ and the organizations Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/veteransmovingforward where you can see many other ways to give. (For example, donate fresh formula to the cause and PetWants of Chantilly will match it! https://www.petwants.com/chantilly/shop/home.)

About the author: Gordon Sumner, PhD, is the President & CEO of Veterans Moving forward, and the founder of Gordon Sumner Consulting, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned and American Indian Small Business. After retiring from the US Army as a Colonel select in 1997 as the Division Chief, Army Training, Pentagon, Washington, DC, Gordon served as Managing Director, SYColeman. A decorated combat veteran, he has eceived the Bronze Star Medal (V), Purple Heart Medal, and Air Medal.

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