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Child Watch at YMCA

Posted date:
Friday, September 7, 2012

Child Watch on Race Day at the Gig Harbor Y

The Gig Harbor Family YMCA is pleased to be the start and finish location for the Second Annual Race For A Soldier Half Marathon. Race participants are welcome to access the facility at no cost after the race.

Dogs enlisted to aid veterans with PTSD harder to come by?

Posted date:
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recently retired Army major James "Jimmy" LaCaria says he was afraid to leave his apartment before he got Kaeci, his 5-year-old mixed Australian blue heeler and kelpi service dog.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre | USA TODAY
Jimmy LaCaria and Kaeci attend a group meeting at an El Paso hospital last month.

LaCaria, 36, from El Paso, was diagnosed in 2010 with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had been in and out of inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities before his psychiatrist recommended he get a service dog to help him cope with the anxiety and nightmares caused by his debilitating condition.

"Even after getting psychiatric help, I was still afraid to go outside. I was afraid to go into public places or anyplace that had a crowd," LaCaria recalled. "With Kaeci, I'm able to do that. I can have more of a normal life."

An Army policy implemented in January, critics say, has made it harder for soldiers such as LaCaria who are suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to have specialized psychiatric service dogs on military posts.

For soldiers back from war, working with horses offers help with PTSD

Posted date:
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

After six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker's luck ran out.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker, now a volunteer with Rainier Therapeutic Riding, rides with founder Debbi Fisher.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker, now a volunteer with Rainier Therapeutic Riding, rides with founder Debbi Fisher.

A roadside bomb left him with third-degree burns, a traumatic brain injury and nerve damage to one leg. But the unseen wounds became the most disabling of all.

The 27-year-old who rode motorcycles, was a whiz at auto-body work and had wanted to be a soldier since he was old enough to ask his mother to "buy some army pants" could no longer tolerate being around people.

He was anxious, hypervigilant, expecting attack. Memories rushed in of his last tour in Afghanistan, the five-hour attack by insurgents his convoy fended off, the soldier he found bleeding to death but was unable to help.

To block out the memories and the surges of anxiety that made him feel always ready for battle, he began to drink. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sent to a lockdown mental-health facility for veterans.

Faced with overwhelming physical pain, afraid of being close to anyone, and so mired in despair that he could see no hopeful future, Heliker didn't want to continue living.

Then he met Fred.