Philanthropist Lois Pope And American Humane Association Honor Valor And Courage Of Military Dogs And Their Handlers At Special “K-9 Battle Buddies” Luncheon In Palm Beach

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Special event at Mar-a-Lago Club celebrated five courageous military dog teams; Groundbreaking new study for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress announced

PALM BEACH, Fla., March 20, 2015 –For members of the military, dogs are their best friends. Dogs keep them safe and can provide company in the face of unspeakable hardships. Five of these special K-9 Battle Buddy teams were honored on Tuesday March 17th for their bravery and service to the nation at a special luncheon at the Mar-a-Lago Club, hosted by philanthropist Lois Pope and American Humane Association. Many special guests were on hand to join in the celebration, including country music legend Naomi Judd, “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker, retired four-star Army general Peter Chiarelli, and retired Army First Sergeant Matt Eversmann, one of the heroes of the Battle of Mogadishu whose story was immortalized by actorJosh Harnett in the film, “Black Hawk Down.”

The afternoon’s honorees were Sergeant Matt Hatala and MWD Chaney, Corporal Jeff DeYoung and MWD Cena, CorporalJonathan Cavender and MWD Maxi, Corporal Nick Caceres and MWD Fieldy, and Army Specialist Brent Grommet and MWD Matty. The American public named Chaney as the Military Dog of the Year at the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation. Guests also enjoyed touching musical performances from “American Idol’s”Stefano Langone, the Alex Donner Orchestra, and the widely acclaimed singing duo of Will and Anthony Nunziata.

For the past year, Mrs. Pope and American Humane Association have worked to bring home and honor military dogs everywhere. Lois Pope and American Humane Association are deeply committed to ensuring that all our military dogs are brought home to the United States and given the opportunity to live out their retirements with the brave human handlers who worked hand-in-paw with them on the hot desert sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, and on bases around the world. With an estimated 2,500 military working dogs and contract working dogs working side by side with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need has never been greater to bring each dog home. The dogs have noses that are 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’, giving them an unparalleled ability to sniff out and detect weapons caches and Improvised Explosive Devices. It is estimated that each military working dog saves the lives of between 150-200 service members.

Cena, Maxi, and Fieldy were all brought home in 2014 and reunited with their human handlers as part of American Humane Association’s K-9 Battle Buddies program. On November 11, 2014, these three recently reunited military dog teams marched in New York City’s Veterans Day parade as part of a special American Humane Association float sponsored by Mrs. Pope to honor the importance of dogs to the military.

Just a few days after the parade, American Humane Association shared the good news that thanks to Mrs. Pope and American Humane Association, Grommet and Matty had been reunited after months apart, separated after returning to the United Statesfollowing a roadside explosion in Afghanistan. Grommet had submitted paperwork to adopt Matty, but due to bureaucratic error or negligence, Matty was adopted by another family. American Humane Association contacted the military for more information, and offered a generous reward to return Matty to Grommet. Eventually the story reached national media, and Matty’s adopters came forward and returned him to his battle buddy. Now, American Humane Association is pursuing legislation known as “Matty’s Wish” to ensure errors like this can never happen again.

Mrs. Pope recently saw the completion of a decade’s long dream – the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Memorial will forever stand as a reminder to the public and legislators of the courage and sacrifices of the four million living disabled veterans and all those who died before them for the need to be vigilant in assuring their support, as well as being aware of the human cost of war. The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation is now working to have October 5 declared a national holiday in honor of the courage and sacrifices of our Disabled Veterans, who have given so much to defend our freedom.

While military dogs are so important in service, they have also shown to be powerful allies for the scores of veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress. American Humane Association’s Wags4Patriots Program is now helping to put leashes in the hands of the veterans who need these service dogs most, and a groundbreaking new study announced at the K-9 Battle Buddies luncheon will help to do even more for these veterans in need. Retired General Peter Chiarelli delivered a special address to the crowd about American Humane Association’s new PTS Service Dogs study, which seeks to demonstrate scientifically the efficacy of service dogs on veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war. American Humane Association President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert urged the crowd to help fund the innovative study.

“These brave men and women in uniform do so much to protect us on the home front and around the world. Now it is our duty to help them when they return home,” said Dr. Ganzert. “This PTS Service Dogs study is in urgent need of funding, and will require $100,000 to launch. Please give so we can give back to these veterans who risked their lives for us. While we can never truly pay them back for their service to our nation, we will always be there for them whenever they need us, whether it’s by helping them get the service dogs they need, by comforting deployed parents’ children with therapy dogs, or helping to reunite these Battle Buddy teams. We thank Mrs.Lois Pope for her gracious sponsorship of this luncheon and all she does to make a more humane world for our children, animals, and veterans.”

“I cannot thank these five military dog teams, General Chiarelli, and Sergeant Eversmann enough for their service to America and for defending our freedom,” said Mrs. Pope. “Many people do not know of the importance of dogs to our military, and we need to do all we can to honor them. I want to ensure that they are reunited with the men and women they served with on the battlefield, and I want every veteran in need to receive a service dog to help them overcome their fears and anxiety.”

American Humane Association has been working with the America’s military, veterans, and their families since World War I. You can help support these lifesaving, life-affirming programs and help them launch the innovative PTS Service Dogs study by calling 1-800-227-4645 or emailing Anasatasia Staten at [email protected].

The K-9 Battle Buddy Teams Honored at Mar-a-Lago on March 17

Sergeant Matt Hatala & MWD Chaney
Eight-year-old lab Chaney retired from the Marines in 2013 after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an IED detection dog. While deployed with Sgt. Hatala, Chaney not only saved countless lives by locating IEDs, but he also served as a great morale booster for everyone in his squad. Since retiring, Chaney was adopted by Sgt. Hatala and they now spend many hours volunteering around the Midwest for a nonprofit organization called Retrieving Freedom, Inc., which trains service dogs for disabled veterans and children with autism. In September 2014, Chaney was honored as the Military Dog of the Year at the fourth annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ with Sgt. Hatala giving an impassioned acceptance speech on the importance of all veterans helping their fellow veterans in need.

Corporal Jeff DeYoung & MWD Cena
This brave pair served together in the United States Marine Corps and served one tour of duty together from October 2009 to April 2010 as part of Operation Moshtarak, the largest military operation in Afghanistan at the time. Cena served a total of four years in the military, and was separated from Corporal DeYoung for four years, one month, and eight days. They had a tearful reunion on June 5, 2014 with help from American Humane Association and the pair now lives in Muskegon, Michigan. “He’s not my best friend. He’s my brother,” said DeYoung, referring to his deployment with Cena. The pair joined American Humane Association and Mrs. Lois Pope on the special Veterans Day Parade float honoring all military dogs in New York City last November.

Corporal Jonathan Cavender & MWD Maxi
On August 28, 2014, Marine Corps Corporal Jonathan Cavender was reunited with MWD Maxi, a Belgian Malinois with whom he served with for two years in Japan. Their special reunion was made possible with the help of American Humane Association. Maxi is a 12-year old specialized Improvised Detection Dog who helped detect explosives while on deployment in Iraq and served as a military police dog in Japan. Maxi served with Corporal Cavender for two years at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. Corporal Cavender, a native of Richmond, Texas, is currently based in Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The pair joined American Humane Association and Mrs. Lois Pope on the special Veterans Day Parade float honoring all military dogs in New York City last November.

Corporal Nick Caceres & CWD Fieldy
After over three years apart, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Corporal Nick Caceres was reunited with Fieldy, the Contract Working Dog (CWD) he served with in Afghanistan. The reunion took place at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas with the help of American Humane Association. “I trusted him with my life and he never let me down,” said Caceres of his service with Fieldy inAfghanistan. “The bond we shared was so special and I’m so thankful to be able to adopt him and care for him in his retirement.” The pair joined American Humane Association and Mrs. Lois Pope on the special Veterans Day Parade float honoring all military dogs inNew York City last November.

Army Specialist Brent Grommet & MWD Matty
Army Specialist Brent Grommet and Matty served as a bomb detection team in Afghanistan, but a roadside blast in June 2013 ended their careers.  Upon returning to the United States after being wounded in the explosion, Grommet and Matty were unceremoniously separated. Grommet was certain he would be able to reclaim Matty because he had submitted adoption papers.  However, due to bureaucratic error and/or negligence, Matty was adopted by another party.

Only after months of dedicated searching by Brent Grommet’s hero dad, Don Grommet, and help from Mrs. Pope, individuals, members of Congress, media outlets and organizations like American Humane Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars were Brent and Matty finally reunited. Now begins the effort to make sure stories like Brent Grommet’s never happen again. American Humane Association is working with members of Congress to pass legislation – called “Matty’s Wish” – that gives our two- and four-legged veterans the respect they deserve and that honors the relationship our two-legged veterans have with their four-legged brothers-in-arms. These bonds are forged in the fires of war. They deserve to be honored and respected when these warriors return home.

About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

About Lois Pope, The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education)
As one of America’s leading philanthropists, Lois Pope has positively impacted the lives of individuals at the local, national and international levels.  She has established three separate organizations dedicated to helping those in need.  These organizations are the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE), and the Disabled Veterans’ Life Memorial Foundation.  For more than 20 years she has been the driving force behind the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, and a groundbreaking new program with American Humane Association in Palm Beach County. Lois Pope has recently donated two Lois Pope Red Star Rescue Vehicles. Each rescue vehicle is a 50-foot long response unit, complete with a Ford F-350 truck and trailer, which is specifically designed and outfitted to provide an array of animal emergency services and cruelty responses within the region.

Mrs. Pope recently saw the completion of a decade’s long dream – the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Memorial will forever stand as a reminder to the public and legislators of the courage and sacrifices of the four million living disabled veterans and all those who died before them for the need to be vigilant in assuring their support, as well as being aware of the human cost of war.

A mother and a grandmother, Lois has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons.

To learn more visit www.life-edu.org or call 561.582.8083.

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