TD salutes the dedication and bravery of all military personnel and their families this National Veterans and Military Families Month. We have a growing community of veterans who bring a unique perspective to our business and a passion for going above and beyond. The bank's mission is to build upon our commitment by creating a community where all active duty, reserve, former military, services, and family members can share their experiences, grow their careers, and raise awareness of veteran matters to our colleagues, customers, and communities.
We are honored to share the story of how a TD Bank small business customer, Warrior Canine Connection, is making a difference in the lives of veterans and their families.
Following the attacks of 9/11, Paul Kelly reenlisted in the United States Army. Paul last served 20 years earlier, but he felt compelled to help. As an Army Reserve Sergeant First Class, Paul was deployed to Afghanistan, where he suffered a brain injury from a blast on the battlefield.
Paul had a tough time after he returned home.
“Everything was a struggle,” Paul says. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I had anxiety and depression, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t be in crowds, I had a hard time interacting with people.”
Eventually, Paul connected with Warrior Canine Connection of Boyds, Maryland, an organization that enlists the help of veterans to train service dogs for other veterans. The organization is a TD Bank business customer.
Although Paul initially considered applying for a service dog, he decided he wanted to help train dogs instead. “It’s because of Warrior Canine Connection that I am here today,” he says. “Volunteering with them was life-changing.”
Veterans helping Veterans
Paul is not unusual in his desire to help other veterans. The foundation of Warrior Canine Connection is the “warrior ethos” that service members always take care of their own.
“Who better to train service dogs for veterans than other veterans?” founder Rick Yount says.
Veterans like Paul who train service dogs not only provide much-needed service dogs for veterans in need. They also get significant therapeutic benefits from participating in the program.
“I thought I was just volunteering to help another vet. I didn’t realize at the time that it was helping me too,” Paul says.
Rick explains that veterans who train service dogs learn patience, emotional regulation, and communication skills. Because veterans need to stay completely focused on the puppy, they are training, they also learn mindfulness. They also get used to being around new people and places.
The Puppy Impact
When Paul first started volunteering, he didn’t feel comfortable interacting with many people. However, he gradually started to feel comfortable with the staff at Warrior Canine Connection. Later, he took dogs he was training to public places he previously found overwhelming. “I’m able to interact with people now because of Warrior Canine Connection,” Paul says.
Warrior Canine Connection also helped Paul cope with depression and anxiety. On a couple of particularly hard days, Paul had to fake being happy to get the dogs to respond to him. Although he was anything but happy, he stuck with the training schedule because he didn’t want to let down the veteran waiting for their service dog.
“Once the dog started responding, I wasn’t faking anymore. I really was happy,” Paul says, “It was immediate and long-lasting relief.”
Although Paul had tried other types of therapy before becoming involved with Warrior Canine Connection, none were as effective as working with the dogs. “It was the perfect healing process,” Paul says.
Over 7,500 veterans have participated in Warrior Canine Connection to date. Rick has said it is “humbling” to see how much the dogs have helped veterans who have participated.
TD Bank Helps Every Step of the Way
Choosing a bank that aligned with Warrior Canine Connection’s mission was important to Rick.
"Banking with TD provides a sense of security to myself and Warrior Canine Connection not just because of TD's success, but also because of our shared core values of serving our communities,” Rick says.
"It's truly an honor and an inspiration to work with such a dedicated group of veterans and allies who continue to band together with purpose and passion to serve those who have so bravely served us," said David Hargadon, Regional Vice President, Virginia/Washington, D.C. Region, TD Bank. "It's truly humbling to see the impact the dogs have on veterans who have participated. We're proud to stand with Warrior Canine Connection, not only in support of their banking needs, but as a committed champion of their meaningful, lasting impact on our veteran community."
TD Bank does more than just provide the organization with financial services. The bank has invited Rick to attend community events with some of Warrior Canine Connection’s dogs. This introduces more people to the organization's work and helps bridge the military-civilian divide.
“Our relationship with TD is built on great interactions with real and caring individuals,” Rick says.
A Great Need
Warrior Canine Connection has a hard time keeping up with the demand for service dogs. The program is “unique, powerful, and safe” and “the only side effects could be some fur,” Rick says.
There is a role in Warrior Canine Connection for anyone who wants to get involved. Tuning into Warrior Canine Connection’s wildly popular Puppy Cam is a great way to get to know the puppies and how they are trained. There is always a need for more “puppy parents” to house puppies until they become certified service dogs. Hosting community events to raise awareness of the organization’s mission is another way to support Warrior Canine Connection’s mission.
“It’s a blessing to do this work and see the impact,” Rick says, and he hopes more people join him in this critical mission.