Veterans soar over their troubles at iFly

A local organization held an event at iFly to give veterans from every military branch a few minutes in the sky.

"Rescues 4 Warriors" is a new organization that works to set up rescue dogs with veterans, but besides saving animals, the veterans also work to save each other.

Steven Boyd, a disabled veteran who served with the 508th Airborne, has had a difficult time since his military service ended.

"I was literally moments away from taking my own life," Boyd said. 

Now he's all smiles.

"It's freedom and for the few minutes I'm in the tunnel, the few minutes I'm under canopy, nothing else matters," Boyd said.  

Steven finds comfort in the wind tunnel at iFly, but even when the wind isn't blowing his hair back he's finally at peace because he found a friend in the most unexpected place.

"I got this worthless $75 rescue dog. I wasn't even looking for a dog and he saved my life," said Boyd. 

Since adopting Djaingo, the Blue Healer, Steven felt it was only right to share the healing with other veterans.

"I've lost 31 brothers by their own hand. Only one of them had a dog. We have a veteran that's committing suicide every 65 minutes, 22 veterans a day. We have a dog that's euthanized every three seconds, that's nearly 29,000 a day. Why not connect the two and lower the numbers of both?" asked Boyd. 

When Steven met Brian Wilcox he realized he wasn't the only veteran saved by puppy love.

"My dog was an emotional dog for my PTSD. I had her 16 years and I lost her last year to pneumonia. I got her when she was four weeks old and everybody used to tell me, 'You did a good thing rescuing that dog.' I didn't rescue that dog, that dog rescued me," Wilcox said.

That's why Steven started "Rescues 4 Warriors," an organization that sets up trained rescue dogs with veterans that are struggling.

Steven decided to host monthly events with other veteran organizations to help connect veterans who felt lost after military life.

"As an American it makes me mad because we're not taking care of our veterans. We shouldn't be losing 22 a day and as a veteran it breaks my heart because they're my brothers and sisters," said Wilcox. 

The few minutes the veterans spend in the wind tunnel at iFly remind them of all they accomplished for their country.

"It's a rush. It's a rush. It's like the first time you step out of a plane at 2,000 feet," said Wilcox.

When they return home, they aren't left with just their thoughts anymore because there's always a furry friend nearby.

"I'm not saying a dog's going to save everybody, but I know a dog saved me," Boyd said.

Since starting "Rescues 4 Warriors" five rescue dogs have been placed with veterans and two more are in training.

"Rescues 4 Warriors" hosts an event on the 22nd of every month in honor of the 22 vets that commit suicide every day.

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