Ryan Holiday and his wife, Carrie got to welcome a new member into their family this July the 4th. For Holiday, it’s not just the nation’s birthday, it’s his as well, and thanks to Guardians of Rescue out of Long Island, New York he has a new forever friend to help him out with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
The military and the havoc it can bring to someone’s life are nothing new to the Holiday family. Ryan’s father was a Marine wounded in Vietnam, and because of his problems with post-traumatic stress disorder committed suicide in 2005. Not long after, Ryan enlisted in the Marines in honor of his father’s memory.
Being deployed to Iraq in 2009, Ryan got to witness the horrors of war first hand. Upon returning home, he began to binge drink, suffered from insomnia and would do anything he possibly could to withdraw from society all together. Often taking on way more than the required full-timer’s schedule just to shut himself off from his fears and anxieties.
Ryan saw many of the warning signs that something was very wrong, and thankfully, was able to come forward to ask for the help his father couldn’t.
“You see people walking their dogs and you think how this can make you a less stressful person,” said Ryan. “I’m more excited than anything – it’s like a new chapter in my life.”
Ryan is being treated for PTSD and a host of other disorders brought on by military service. Things like being around people for too long, or going anywhere for long periods of time is a nightmare for Ryan. Night time is especially difficult for him.
“My heart (races) because I can’t see what’s going on in the dark,” Ryan said.
Guardians of Rescue was formed in 2010. They began bringing military dogs back from deployment to be placed with service members that had been dag handlers overseas.
Robert Misseri is the president of Guardians of Rescue, and said in an interview, “we learned very quickly that the veteran’s that were not being able to return with their dogs and the ones that were, were living very different lives. It was very difficult for them to leave their dogs behind,” he said.
Paws of War was created as a program to reconnect vets with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries with shelter dogs, specially trained therapy dogs at no cost. On Friday, Ryan got to welcome Jaco, a therapy dog, into his life. Ryan couldn’t be happier.
“On days when I get depressed or I’m hyper vigilant, Jaco can help. To go out, and just not worry. I think it’s a step closer to me getting more of a civilian lifestyle,” Ryan said.
When they finally came together to meet on Friday, Ryan was so excited about starting his therapy with Jaco. He’s around 15 months old and is a chocolate lab – pointer mix. Being that Jaco is a specially trained PTSD therapy dog, all thanks to Guardians of Rescue, hopefully Ryan can put his military life behind him, and become as “normal” as any other civilian.