Home Fires: A Guide and an Ally

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By Michael Jernigan / The New York Times

I have written several pieces for Home Fires these last couple of years. I have talked about my journey back from Iraq and my road to recovery. I have also opened up and let you into the side of my life that is haunted by demons. I have enjoyed writing and it has allowed me to face some of the things that have inhibited my growth as a person. In this post, I would like to talk about something not quite so serious, but very close to my heart: my guide dog, Brittani.

Many of y’all have read about Brittani in previous posts. She is very important to me and my family. Brittani is more than just my eyes. It is true that she helps me get around and does one heck of a job of it, but she is also the family dog and one of my best allies in my struggles.

I got Brittani in the spring of 2007 from Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto. Fla., as part of their Paws For Patriots program. It is a program that provides guide dogs for veterans who have become visually impaired serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. The program has been so successful that they have opened it up to other veterans who are in need of a guide dog. We have even placed therapy dogs at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Brittani and I have been all around the country together. In addition to all of the traveling, she assists me at school. We have attended classes at Northern Virginia Community College, Georgetown University (by far the most challenging) and the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg. We have been walking up and down Santa Monica Boulevard, strolling through the gaming floor of Ceasar’s Palace, down the halls of Congress, Yankee Stadium and many points in between. Unfortunately, many of these travels have not been with my wife and son. But when I travel by myself I am never truly alone. Brittani is always by my side.

Read more at The New York Times

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