HONOLULU (KHON2) — Navy veteran, Leo, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after serving 17 years as a hospital corpsman. But in January, that’s when his life changed.

During his years of service, Leo saw a lot where he said he “did five deployments, one to the middle east, and I was medically retired in 2018.”

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K9s for Warriors was his last resort after trying many different things to help his mental health.

The organization trains canines to become service dogs for veterans. Once they complete their training, the dogs are observed to know what specific veteran would be the best fit. K9s for Warriors is located in Florida and Texas.

Leo flew to Florida where K9s for Warriors matched him with a trained service dog named Deputy. They went through a three-week process before coming to Hawaii.

When asked about bringing Deputy to Hawaii, Leo said “he’s very loving and very caring and you know, coming to Hawaii I was super excited because I want to be able to explore more things with him.”

He said Deputy changed his lifestyle and that it was love at first sight.

He senses when, you know, I am nervous or when I am triggered by something, you know, and he gives me this extra love — extra attention.”

Leo, Navy veteran

Leo wants people who are in a similar situation to know “first and foremost, you’re not alone. You know, sometimes we create these lies in our head that we are alone and that we have to endure the struggles by ourselves, and that’s a lie we tell ourselves, you know, so be brave enough to seek help”.

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The organization opened a new location on May that will train 88 more service-dogs-in-training in efforts to lower the waitlist. Click here for more information about K9s for Warriors and how you can get connected.