For Veterans Struggling with PTSD, Honor the Privacy They’ve Earned

We owe our deepest gratitude to our veterans for their service. But more importantly, they deserve respect.
We owe our deepest gratitude to our veterans for their service. But more importantly, they deserve respect. [ K9 Partners for Patriots ]
Published April 10

March 29, 2023 commemorated the 50th anniversary of U.S. troop withdrawal from Vietnam. As we saw from newspapers, television and social media, there were plenty of veterans with experiences and perspectives to share … and plenty of noise from reporters and pundits who perhaps should have spent less time talking and more time listening.

One of the 700+ veterans in the K9 Partners for Patriots program said he’d share his own perspective with the media after we asked him. Early in 1970 he celebrated his 21st birthday, but things did not go as he’d have liked. Piloting a Chinook helicopter in Vietnam, he was shot down and severely injured from 50-caliber machine gun fire. It had been the second time he was downed in 10 days.

But after having some time recently to truly think it over, he and his wife agreed that “it would be like ripping the bandage off memories that had been packed away through years of counseling. Looking through photos and objects like my bullet-damaged flight helmet makes me realize I shouldn’t do this.”

Our veteran’s change of heart offers all of us a profound lesson about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And that is: there is no cure. It never “goes away.” However, through counseling and programs like K9 Partners for Patriots, in which veterans are taught how to train the K9 that becomes their working service dog, they find their path forward and learn how to manage and mitigate the severity of their PTSD. Together, they develop an exceptional bond.

We fully support our veteran’s decision and hope that many more veterans, family members, friends and strangers may learn from it. We owe our deepest gratitude to our veterans for their service. But more importantly, they deserve respect. We must be mindful of their needs, not the intrusive curiosity of others. And that means respecting their right to privacy and discouraging any unwelcome comments or questions from thoughtless members of the public.

No veteran needs to inform anyone of what he or she did, the physical or mental injuries they sustained, or where or how any of their life-threatening experiences occurred. No veteran is under any obligation to explain why he or she needs a service dog.

PTSD is a volatile and ever-present threat. To the untrained eye the veteran down the street may seem to be doing just fine. And that may have been the case yesterday or today. But tomorrow any number of potential triggers could rapidly bring them to a dangerous, overwhelming place.

It is the obligation of a caring society to support all of our veterans with empathy for those struggling from injuries and scars that cannot be seen. Let’s ensure that their environment is always an accommodating one. Let’s do what we can to give them the tools they need to better manage each day. Let’s make ourselves part of the solution, rather than part of their stress.

Join the mission to end veteran suicide. Please visit us online at to find out how to help empower lifesaving change in the life of a veteran and rescue dog.

Gregg Laskoski, Communications Director, K9 Partners for Patriots