Humbled by the surprise, local veteran says new service dog will help him feel comfortable when he’s alone

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As we honor our country's veterans this Veterans Day, the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs reminds us that hundreds of thousands of service men and women are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Friends in Service of Heroes, also known as F.I.S.H., recently hosted a tribute to the troops at Worth Harley Davidson with the goal of helping veterans who battle PTSD such as Brad Jackson.

"Seen and had to do a lot of things I'm not happy about," Jackson said. "That's a part of war. You've got to live with it. Well, you've got to find ways to live with it."

Jackson is a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who served 16 years from 1996 to 2012. He says he struggles with anger, depression and anxiety, all part of his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I lost my first two jobs because I didn't know how to fit in," Jackson said. "My first job, I hit one of my employees because I told him to do something and he said no. I didn't understand why I was being fired."

Jackson showed up to the event at Worth Harley Davidson to show his support for fellow veterans, but quickly found himself speechless when he realized he was the guest of honor. F.I.S.H. surprised Jackson with a service dog.

"Everyone sees the dog, but they also see the vest," Paul Chapa said. "That vest tells your story. Seven combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home, my brother. This is for you."

Jackson's new best friend also had a fitting name -- Harley.

"It's hard for me to accept because I feel like I'm taking from someone else who deserves it more," Jackson said as the crowd shouted, " You deserve it."

Harley is a lab who is trained to help Jackson with what he needs most.

"We've done something that is going to enhance the quality of his life for the rest of his life," Kris Harris said. "I don't think you can take anything to bed that's better than that."

Kris Harris is on the F.I.S.H. advisory board. The organization has matched more than a dozen veterans with service dogs to date.

"We have found that our veterans that receive a service dog are able to reduce their medications by over 40-percent in the first 120 days. And 90-percent of those medications are opioids," Harris said.

For Jackson -- he walked away with Harley and a new leash on life.

"It's going to help me with my anger, depression, anxiety, being comfortable in crowds of people, being comfortable by myself," Jackson said.
"We're gonna make a good team."

In case you're wondering -- Jackson told Fox 4 those puppy dog eyes aren't going to work on him. Harley can sleep next to the bed, but never on it.

To learn more about F.I.S.H. and how the organization helps veterans in our community click here.