Stay Strong Nation trains therapy dogs for veterans

A therapy dog brings a smile to a member of the U.S. Army. (Photo credit: L.A. Times)

By Michele C. Hollow, Pet News and Views

Keith Crosby knows that a dog can take away loneliness and pain. Having dogs around helped him when he came back from Vietnam with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I had PTSD for years, and just didn’t know what it was,” he explains.

With his close friend, Gresford “Lewis” Lewishall, they formed Stay Strong Nation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, to help veterans with PTSD. Their goal is to construct a first-class treatment center for military personnel where therapy dogs will be a major component.

Got Each Other’s Back

Often civilians and military personnel have little contact. Lewis, a native of Jamaica, who came to the states in 1978, became involved in Stay Strong Nation because of Keith. “This guy is a very dear friend of mine,” he says. “From listening to his story about what he went through, we should not let these guys and girls that are coming home have to deal with PTSD. Plus, I have a 17-year-old son going in the air force.”

While the Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded mental health counseling and services so that all returning service men and women have access to screening and treatment, Lewis, Keith, and the staff at Stay Strong Nation believe there is still a need to create a tranquil and revitalizing point of reentry for the troops.

To raise awareness, Keith co-wrote the song Stay Strong. The song pays tribute to and inspires those who serve. There are two hip hop versions and a country music track.

Therapy Dogs

“Dogs have a calming effect on people,” says Keith. “After suffering from PTSD, these men and women are not the same as when they entered the service. A facility where we can bring therapy dogs and military personnel together is our dream. We found a wonderful site—540 acres in Maui—for this facility. There will be no cost to the veterans for treatment.”

To raise funds for the center, Lewis and Keith are writing grants, raising funds from the song, and are touring the country with a 35 foot by 17 foot inflatable message board about PTSD. They recently brought their message to thousands of people in Times Square in New York City. Their next stop is Hawaii; after that they will be in Miami.

To help Stay Strong Nation and for more information, click here.