RICHLANDS, N.C. - Military veterans sometimes find it difficult re-adjusting to life at home after a combat tour. But one former Marine with post traumatic stress disorder is not letting his disability get in the way of life.
For 28-year-old Tom Brennan of Richlands, going out in public was sometimes a challenge. A doctor diagnosed him with post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that makes him nervous around crowds.
"Just because of the sheer amount of people," said Brennan. "I don't feel safe. It really bugs me."
An explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 caused a traumatic brain injury that changed his life, even affecting his relationship with his 3-year-old daughter.
"I noticed I wasn't being the father I was supposed to be. That's when I decided to get help," said Brennan.
That's where Luke comes in. The golden retriever mix is a trained service dog, helping his owner overcome his fear of crowds.
"Rather than focusing on the crowd, I'm focusing more on him so therefore my anxiety level is a lot lower," said Brennan.
Luke just spent two months at Refined K9, a service dog boarding school in New Bern. Samantha Scarborough is the owner.
"Luke knows an under command. He knows how to switch left to right to kind of control the crowd, he also knows like a post command, to where he can go back to the end of the leash if Thomas is uncomfortable in a crowd," said Scarborough.
Scarborough says the one command all her service dogs know is the place command. That's where they go to one spot and stay there until otherwise told.
Luke even knows how to wake his owner up when he's making noises during nightmares.
"It goes back to having friends die, and having to take a life yourself," said Brennan.
Brennan says having a service dog lets everyone know he has a disability. But he says he wouldn't give up his dog for the world.
"He puts a smile on my face. I look forward to what the future holds for both of us," said Brennan.
Scarborough says it costs anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 to train a service dog. Brennan's dog was trained for free, thanks to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
A note from the Semper Fi Fund:
The support mentioned in this article was made possible by our Tim & Sandy Day Canine Companions project, thanks to support from the Timothy T. Day Foundation. Learn more about the types of assistance we provide by visiting our Assistance Page.