Puppies, trainers, and veterans gathered at the future home of Warrior Canine Connection’s Healing Quarters in Boyds for a special presentation of a $25,000 donation from Operation Homefront on Wednesday morning, July 13.
Operation Homefront’s Mid-Atlantic regional volunteers wanted to give a special gift to wounded warriors and thanks to their vigorous fundraising; Operation Homefront presented Warrior Canine Connection with a check for $25,000. The funds will cover the cost of training a puppy named Hipsley at Fort Belvoir to be a service dog for veterans recovering from physical and psychological wounds.
“Operation Homefront gives special thanks to a very special group of Operation Homefront volunteers from our Mid-Atlantic region who made this donation possible today,” Operation Homefront National Chief Development Officer Margi Kirst said during the check presentation. “Operation Homefront and Warrior Canine Connection share a strong bond. We are both dedicated to our military and to our communities. Warrior Canine Connection helps warriors, recovering from the stress of combat, to reconnect with their families, communities, and life. Operation Homefront builds strong, stable, and secure military families so they may thrive in the communities they work so hard to protect.”
“We are extremely grateful to the enthusiastic group of volunteers from Operation Homefront’s Mid-Atlantic region who dedicated so much time and energy to raise the funds to train Hipsley at Fort Belvoir,” said Rick Yount, WCC founder, and executive director. “In our work to serve more than 3,700 Veterans since WCC started, we have seen firsthand the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in combating symptoms of PTS and TBI. We are fortunate to have partners, like Operation Homefront, who are equally committed to supporting our nation's Veterans and their families.”
Hipsley is named in honor of Army Sgt. Christian Joseph Hipsley, an Army medic who graduated from Hannah More Academy in Baltimore in 2000. He was known as an individual who cared deeply for people and who found uncommon courage. Sgt. Hipsley’s 13 years of service entailed three tours of duty in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Sgt. Hipsley was awarded the Bronze Star in 2011 for his efforts in saving five Afghan National Army soldiers after the caravan he was riding in was struck by consecutive IED blasts. When the book was closed on his Army career, Sgt. Hipsley had earned the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Valor and the Army Commendation Medal. The soldier lost his battle with PTSD in 2014 at age 32.
After the check presentation Hipsley, the puppy joined other WCC classmates at the beginning of puppy training. Among Hipsley’s training-mates were Tee, another WCC puppy who is named for Army Specialist Toccara Green, another Maryland-native.
Toccora Green was born and raised in Maryland as the daughter of a Baltimore police detective. Specialist Green was first deployed to Iraq in 2003 and then again in 2005 when three months from completing her second tour of duty, she lost her life when a roadside bomb exploded near her convoy. She was 23. Specialist Green is believed to be the first woman from Maryland killed in combat in Iraq.
Throughout their training, Hipsley and Tee, as well as the other purpose-bred Golden and Labrador Retrievers will each empower 60 returning wounded combat Veterans through WCC’s program.
While ultimately each of the dogs will be placed with one veteran, the program uses the training process to allow the dogs to help an estimated 60 veterans before the dog is placed. The puppies and their trainers will visit VA hospitals and military bases where they will come in contact with returning veterans suffering from PTSD or other physical or psychological issues.
“It was very clear that we were on to something,” said Yount, “after seeing veterans who would not engage in treatment or create any kind of therapeutic alliance to get better begin gravitate towards a continued sense of mission, that of training a dog who would eventually help another veteran. Especially when that sense of mission is tied to working with an amazing Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever that was bred to be the most socially engaging creature on the face of the Earth.”
Yount called the dogs “a non-pharmaceutical method of helping service members reintegrate back to their families and communities; that doesn’t have any side effects other than some saliva on your pants or extra fur on your uniform.”
Top: Tee, a 12-week old specially bred Golden Retriever is on her way to being trained by Warrior Canine Connection to become eventually a service dog for a veteran recovering from physical and psychological wounds.
Next: Operation Homefront National Chief Development Officer Margi Kirst presented Rick Yount, WCC executive director with a check for $25,000 raised by Operation Homefront volunteers to help pay for the training of Hipsley, a puppy to be trained at Fort Belvoir.
Next: Rick Yount, WCC founder, and executive director.
Next: Tee and her trainer Sam Hines.
Next: The puppies are trained to be service dogs from very early on, one of the first things a puppy must learn is “Say Hello” which requires the puppy to sit and accept the petting of a stranger. This will allow its veteran to carry on a conversation with the person petting the dog which will allow the veteran to engage in society.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.