‘He chose me’: Local Marine veteran says his best friend, his service dog, saved his life

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. – We've all heard the expression dogs are "man's best friend." A Lee’s Summit veteran says that phrase describes his relationship with his service dog perfectly.

Aaron Bono believes his life would be drastically different if it weren’t for his year-and-a-half-old German shepherd, Max.

“Before Max, I kind of noticed I was starting to go down that dark path again,” Bono said. “He picked me, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Bono is a Marine Corps veteran. He served four years in active duty, with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another four in the reserves. When Bone returned home in 2005, life wasn’t the same.

“Everything had changed. I was so used to the military life,” he said. “I enlisted at 17 and came home at 23 and just kind of saw things a lot differently."

Bono said he couldn’t find a job, and he struggled to reconnect with his friends and family. He was suffering from PTSD and, at one point, tried taking his life.

“I just kind of felt alone, started having a lot of dark issues,” he said. “I got into some bad stuff, drugs, drinking, and it just kind of led me down a dark path."

Bono got some help from the VA, but he said his saving grace was an organization called Friends In Service of Heroes (FISH).

“I decided I wanted to help veterans like myself that didn’t have a resource to go to when they got out of the military,” he said.

It was through the connections he made via the nonprofit that he ended up fostering Max.

“It was kind of my first experience seeing firsthand what a service dog can do,” he recalled.

Bono fostered Max for a couple of weeks before returning him back to a trainer. In July, while attending a Sporting Kansas City game, FISH surprised Bono and announced that Max was his to take home.

“It was kind of surreal,” he said.

Bono said Max is the best companion. He helps the 36-year-old with his stress and anxiety. The two have also shared quite the adventure in the four months they’ve been together.

“We’ve been fishing. I took him hunting with me last weekend. He goes to work with me every day,” he said. “He goes everywhere with me.”

As Veterans Day approaches, Bono wants his band of brothers to know they’re not alone.

“Just don’t be afraid to go out and find help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength,” he said.

Between 11-20% of all veterans who served in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom have PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For information on how to get help, click here.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Click on the boxes below for our FOX 4 You Matter reports and other helpful phone numbers and resources.


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