PONTE VEDRA — United States Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford and his service dog, Bomber were special guests of Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin for the 2014 State of The Union Address. Sgt. Lunsford is a survivor of the Fort Hood attack that took place in 2009 when Army Maj, Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at the post located Killeen, Texas. Lunsford, who was shot seven times, served as a key witness to investors after the attack.
Since the attack, Lunsford, like many soldiers has been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was thankfully helped by K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs to returning warriors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). In December, Lunsford and dog Bomber, a former rescue dog, graduated from the K9s For Warriors program. Lunsford is looking forward to the opportunity to share his experience.
“It’s an honor to be invited to the State of The Union Address, and to be able to correspond with elected officials and let them hear how it feels to be a wounded veteran in this type of situation,” Lunsford said.
In addition to attending the address, Sgt. Lunsford and Rep. Williams are hoping to rekindle the debate about proper treatment and benefits attributed to veterans after acts of terror and workplace violence occur.
K9s For Warriors was founded by Ponte Vedra Beach resident Shari Duval 2 years ago. Duval learned first-hand about the struggles U.S. Military veterans face after her son returned home with PTSD following two tours in Iraq as a contractor. K9s For Warriors accepts active duty troops or veterans from every branch of the service and from every state in the nation. The program also provides a new beginning for the dogs that become the lifelong partners of these veterans. All dogs within the program are rescues from animal shelters or are owner-surrendered directly to K9s For Warriors, then trained to be service dogs. Many of them were scheduled for euthanasia before being adopted for service into the K9s For Warriors Program.
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Established in 2011 K9s For Warriors, founded by Shari Duval (wife of PGA Tour golfer Bobby Duval), trains and provides service dogs to returning warriors suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). After meeting specific standards, dogs, former rescue/shelter dogs, are paired with warriors and veterans based upon his/her special needs and the special tasks the dog has been trained to perform. After a three-week stay at the facility in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, (which includes housing, meals and training) the veteran and their dog graduate from the program and return home together. One in six veterans suffering from PTSD will suffer from suicidal thoughts and tendencies, with more than 184 veterans diagnosed with PTSD each day. K9s For Warriors is supported by Birdies for the Brave, Warrior Gateway, Hope for the Warriors and many other fine veteran’s organizations. For more information, visit www.k9sforwarriors.org.