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Service dog helps Air Force veteran heal from the invisible scars of war

"That was not only life-changing, but it was life-saving"
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Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 12:48:06-05

Nearly two decades since her combat deployment to Afghanistan, Laura Andrade still fights the demons of war: post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.

The retired Air Force captain was attached to a detention team, and twice, she survived enemy attacks.

"One day, I decided not to go with the guys on this one mission and two hours later we got a call that they have been hit by a suicide bomber," Andrade recalled.

That first attack injured one of her battle buddies.

The second attack killed a friend of hers.

Andrade was on her way home. When she found out, survivor's guilt quickly set in.

"It was quite devastating," she said. "Not only did I feel guilty, it was just something that's very hard to process."

For years, Andrade turned to alcohol to self-medicate to ease the psychological and emotional pain.

"I would drink to where I was blacking out almost every day," she said.

Her suffering was compounded by her daily duties of being a dedicated mom and wife. So much so, she considered ending her own life.

Meanwhile, her family tried to understand and be helpful, but felt helpless. They even tried counseling.

"She always wanted to portray herself as the super mom," said her daughter, Lauren."And we always knew that she dealt with a lot of things that she did not want to tell us."

"When she stopped asking about the kids, I noticed 'Oh man, this is some serious stuff, you know,' " said her husband Jeff.

At Andrade's lowest point, faith stepped in.

She turned to a higher power.

"I remember sitting on my bed, opening up my bible and praying 'God what do? How do I fix myself?' " she said.

Andrade did research and found the lasting help she needed, along with the courage to make the first phone call.

"It was like a 50-lb. brick making a call, asking for help, and that's when I found Warrior's Heart," she said.

Warrior's Heart Lodge, located in Bandera just outside of San Antonio, is a recovery center for first responders and military veterans such as Andrade. The program, Andrade said, gives them spiritual and mental hope, and second chances.

"That was not only life changing but it was life saving," she said.

It's also where she met her new battle buddy named Tramp — a Schnauzer/Blue Heeler mix service dog. As it happened, Tramp and another dog named Lady hung out with each other, kind of like the Disney movie. They were ready to be matched up with their human.

"Lady was already taken," said Andrade.

But Tramp was ready to go.

A family Go Fund Me page raised the $5,000 needed to afford Tramp.

For Andrade, Tramp was just the prescription she needed to remain calm, and less anxious.

"He's been a blessing for me and he's a little firecracker, so he, uh, he keeps me going," Andrade laughed. "I feel like a different person now."

Three months into the program at Warrior's Heart where Andrade learned how to interact with Tramp, her family has noticed a drastic improvement.

"You can see a different smile, she seems happy," said Jeff.

Laura Andrade is so thankful for finding Tramp that she is paying it forward. She is now raising money through her Go Fund Me account to pay the costs associated with fellow veterans who are in need of their own version of Tramp.

If you would like to donate, find her account here.