By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) LaTunya Howard, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs
MILLINGTON, Tenn. –A Navy partnership that teams Sailors with rescued dogs is one of 20 finalists in a national community support challenge sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
The South Carolina-based program Canines for Vets and partner Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston (NCBC) are among the top finalists in the Joining Forces Community Challenge. The challenge is an initiative launched by Obama and Biden to recognize organizations, communities, and citizens who serve to improve the lives of military families and veterans.
NCBC partnered with Canines for Vets in 2008 to teach military prisoners how to train rescue dogs from local shelters as service-dogs to assist wounded and disabled veterans in their recovery.
"We look forward to expanding the number of dogs and prisoners allowed to participate in this program because of the national attention being received from this award nomination," said Cmdr. Patrick Boyle, executive officer, NCBC. "It is a vital mission of Naval Brig Charleston to release our prisoners back to the military or civilian society as productive citizens."
According to Boyle, partnering prisoners with dogs that will eventually serve wounded and disabled vets has a positive impact on rehabilitating prisoners in his facility. NCBC uses a Department of Labor certified dog-handling program to train service dogs. Canines for Vets then matches the trained service dog to eligible wounded and disabled veterans to improve their quality of life.
"The service-dog provides social support to the vet by acting as a bridge to conversation and acceptance," said Rick Hairston, Canines for Vets co-founder. "When a service-dog accompanies a wounded veteran, the focus is on the dog, not the disability."
The Joining Forces Community Challenge started in July 2011. Of the hundreds of submissions received, all captured innovative ways Americans have stepped up to show gratitude and support for military families, according to the site www.joiningforces.challenge.gov. The 20 finalists are profiled on the site and the public is encouraged to vote for their favorite submission through March 16 to be the People's Choice Winner, which will be announced on March 21.
Five additional winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. Prize winners will be recognized at an event in Washington, D.C. on a date to be announced later on the Champions of Change website at www.whitehouse.gov/champions. Details about prizes and the winners will be announced in the coming months.
For more information about Canines for Vets, visit www.caninesforservice.org. For more information about Navy consolidated brigs, visit Navy Personnel Command's Corrections and Programs website at www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/CorrectionsandPrograms.