A Young Vet and His Dog


Returning from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan (and sometimes both), American veterans struggle to adjust to civilian life: many are still grappling with what they experienced in combat and, as we recently reported, 11 percent were unemployed in March.

Chris Goehner and Pele at the National Monument in March 2011.

In this web exclusive video, we profile 26 year old Chris Goehner, who deployed twice to Iraq as a hospital navy corpsman (which is similar to a paramedic, Goehner says). He’s one of the 18 1/2 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression since coming home.

Today, Goehner’s PTSD is under control – he can sleep through the night, he’s reduced his medications from eight to one, and he can walk through a store without the fear of a surprise sniper attack – all thanks to a Labrador-Retriever mix service dog named Pele.

“PTSD inhibited my everyday life,” Goehner tells us. “On my second deployment I dealt with 1200 trauma patients and was part of 500 [medical] operation cases. I had to deal with people dying. Coming back home, sometimes I have flashbacks. But now I know Pele is watching out for me. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to get where I’m at today.”

Goehner volunteers for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. We met him and Pele while they were on Capitol Hill last week as part of that organization’s “Storm the Hill” lobbying campaign to lower the veteran unemployment rate. Goehner also works for Veterans Moving Forward, a not-for-profit group which provides service dogs to other veterans suffering from physical or mental disabilities. And Pele accompanies him everywhere he goes- to work, sporting events, on planes, even to the bathroom.

Watch his story below.

Video shot and produced by Elizabeth Shell.

Note: Another non-profit working hard to help vets transition to civilian life is United States Veterans Initiative which provides housing, counseling, career development and other assistance.