Hundreds of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have experienced service related injuries such as physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veterans Administration documents report that over 500,000 American soldiers were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of 2009. As many as one in five American soldiers are coming home from war zones with profound physical afflictions and traumatic brain injuries, many of which require 24-hour attention.
Above and beyond debilitating physical injuries, a great number of American veterans will suffer from emotional disabilities that they will bear for the rest of their lives. Most of the physical injuries suffered from combat are visible; however, because PTSD falls into the category of a psychiatric disorder, many soldiers consider this stigmatizing. The symptoms of PTSD include frustration, extreme anxiety, startle responses to sudden noises, panic attacks, depression, social withdrawal, self isolation, nightmares (or flashbacks of combat) and sleep deprivation.
Saint Francis Service Dogs (a grantee of the Dog Bless You project) provides free, professionally trained service dogs to assist wounded soldiers who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces. A Saint Francis Service Dog can contribute to physical and occupational therapy and offer 24-hour emotional support and companionship to a wounded veteran.