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LIBERTY, Mo. — A pair of veterans got a surprise Thursday at a community event honoring veterans and first responders.

Friends in Service of Heroes announced they were presenting them with service dogs at the 13th annual Military and First Responders Appreciation presented by Carstar. The event featured a raffle of various door prizes.

“It truly takes the entire community to put on this event, we wouldn’t be able to by ourselves. We have a lot of businesses that donate to our veterans and first responders.” Crystal Wicklund, CARSTAR franchise co-owner, said.

Two presentations had nothing to do with luck of the draw.

“Mark we’re getting you a service dog buddy, service dogs are life changers, life savers,” Paul Chapa, FISH Chairman of the Board, told the audience as he revealed the first surprise.

Thirty-seven times prior the organization Friends in Service of Heroes has helped veterans get service dogs.

“For a lot of them truthfully it’s something to get up and take out and feed and walk, something that’s always right by their side and they don’t know that they are missing that component in their life until they actually have a dog,” Lea Mitchell, a service dog trainer working with FISH, said.

The dogs can be instrumental in helping veterans dealing with post traumatic stress. According to Veterans Affairs between 10 to 20 percent of combat veterans have PTSD.

“So many veterans years after they’ve taken off the uniform they still struggle with the things they’ve seen, heard experienced in combat,” Chapa said.

“Going to the store getting out of the house it gives them that courage and a different focal point from the things that go on with post-traumatic stress,” Mitchell said.

The two recipients were presented with the vests their dogs valued between $8,000 to $10,000 constantly at their side will wear when working at their service, after giving so much in service of our country.

“When people see you coming down the street they are going to see one of our nations defenders, I just want to say thank you for your service,” Chapa told a second recipient named Josh.

If you know of a Veteran in need FISH encourages you to reach out to them.

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