Today in the U.S., 20 veterans will take their own lives. The same will happen tomorrow. And the next day. Thousands of others will battle debilitating PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other chronic conditions so painful they are unable to leave their homes or engage in meaningful social interactions. Too often, these brave men and women who fought for our freedom have become prisoners to their own physical and mental limitations that leave them feeling isolated, hopeless and alone.
When it comes to causes close to our hearts here at VJ, supporting our nation’s veterans and active-duty military members is at the top of the list. My dad, VJ’s co-founder James Hall, served in the U.S. Air Force. He served in Vietnam, earned a Purple Heart, and returned home having seen and experienced things most of us could never imagine.
While the support and services available to our veterans has greatly improved in recent years, there’s still much work to be done. Suicide among service members, veterans, and their families has been declared a public health and national security crisis. Since 2010, more than 65,000 veterans have died by suicide—more than the total number of deaths from combat during the Vietnam War and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
One organization helping to improve the lives of veterans and active-duty service members across the country is Freedom Service Dogs. A Colorado-based nonprofit that is not only a brand we love, it’s a cause we hope you’ll join us in supporting this Veterans Day and beyond. We spoke with Freedom Service Dogs to learn more about what makes this organization unique and how we can help them help others.
Freedom Service Dogs (FSD) provides custom-trained assistance dogs for people in need, including veterans and active-duty service members. Since 1987, FSD has created hundreds of lifelong partnerships between people with disabilities and canine companions who help them live a more independent and fulfilling life. Service dogs are trained to help mitigate the symptoms of things like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, neurocognitive disabilities, mobility challenges and other conditions that impact quality of life.
In 2010, in response to the rising need for service dogs among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, FSD launched Operation Freedom—a program that provides service dogs specifically for veterans. Today, about one-third of the organization’s clients are veterans or active-duty military.
People like Eddie, who spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, including four tours in Afghanistan, eventually returning home with severe PTSD. Eddie said he became alienated from everyone, bearing the burden of his invisible scars alone. He was connected to FSD, who helped match him with a service dog named Alfredo. “Freedom Service Dogs saved my life and has given me a second chance to live my life to the fullest,” Eddie said.
Eddie’s story is just one of many. In 2021 alone, more than 30 veterans have applied or been approved for a service dog of their own.
These aren’t just any dogs. Starting from the time they’re very young, the dogs in FSD’s program receive highly specialized training valued at $30,000-$50,000. They learn to pick up dropped items, open doors, provide balance support, turn lights on and off, reduce anxiety, and provide other physical and emotional support to help their people get their lives and freedom back.
This life-changing companion, as well as a lifetime of support from FSD, comes at no cost to FSD’s clients. Zero. FSD was founded on the promise that the organization would never charge for service dogs. That makes them truly unique. And it’s possible because of a generous community of supporters who put time, energy and money toward this cause.
VJ is joining that community of supporters. We’re donating $500 to Freedom Service Dogs and inviting our staff, friends and followers to also consider supporting this most worthy organization. Click here to contribute and be sure to mention “Vladimir Jones” in the additional comments box on the donation form.
Looking for more ways to get involved? FSD is seeking a variety of volunteers—everything from raising puppies (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT), fostering adult dogs on the weekends, socializing puppies (do you need us to keep going?), helping out at their facility in Englewood, and, of course, making financial contributions if you’re in a position to do so.
Learn more about FSD, how to donate, and get yourself some puppy snuggles at freedomservicedogs.org.
And to all our veterans and active-duty military—thank you. We recognize and honor the sacrifices you’ve made today and every day. If you’re interested in applying for a service dog, learn more about the process here.
Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.