Posted on November 9, 2016
Often referred to as “the invisible injury,” post-traumatic stress disorder can be downright insidious in its effects on our post-9/11 service members.
In the case of Corporal Lisa Forcia, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 (“I saw some pretty devastating things that left long-lasting scars”), PTSD profoundly affected her personal and professional relationships.
In 2010, Lisa’s years of struggle began to give way to a new life that provided her with a positive outlook and a future to embrace with energy and enthusiasm. “That was the year things finally started to turn around,” she says. “I connected with the Semper Fi Fund, which really helped me get back on my feet.”
After successfully completing a substance abuse program, Lisa became a member of Team Semper Fi and, shortly thereafter, met her service dog, Dante.
“That’s a pretty amazing part of the story, actually,” says Lisa. “I found him on Craigslist and trained him myself to be my service dog. He will lie down on top of me whenever I show any indication I might be about to do something bad or self-harming. He can turn lights on and off, open doors, pick things up and bring them to me — it’s pretty amazing what dogs can do!”
Training her own service dog has opened all sorts of doors for Lisa. She’s currently working on a business plan with the hope of securing a grant to attend the K-9 Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she currently lives.
“It’s a three-phase intensive training program with a world class trainer and competitor who runs the Academy,” Lisa explains. “Each phase lasts 6-8 weeks. I’m very excited for the opportunity — I feel like I’m finally ready to step out and handle he mental stress of this kind of training.”
Meanwhile, Lisa has two more dogs she’s training: a puppy donated to her from someone in California (she’ll be training the pup over the next two years, after which she’ll donate the dog to a wounded veteran) and Keela, an 18-month-old dog she’s training for her boyfriend, Jeff, also an injured service member being assisted by the Semper Fi Fund. Lisa calls Jeff “my number-one supporter.”.
“Training takes time and patience, and you can’t mess around,” says Lisa. “The VA requires dogs to be certified by the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Eventually, I’d love to run a nice, small service
dog training practice and find a way to build up some sort of sponsorship to cover the costs of the dog food.”
And while Lisa loves dogs, she also has a special place in her heart for horses. She’s part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program (she recently attended a women’s roping clinic in California) and, while her own horse passed away recently, she’s been involved with the Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program and is working on making a $4,500 saddle from scratch.
“A woman dealing with PTSD is different than a man dealing with PTSD,” notes Lisa, who lives on a farm and looks after four kids. “Moms still bear the primary responsibility for getting the kids to school, packing lunch, and generally making sure they turn out to be responsible individuals. So what happens when the caretaker is the one who needs the care?”
“It’s not easy to talk about things like PTSD,” she continues, “but if it can help save a life, it’s worth it. I’ve been through a lot, but today — and in large part thanks to the Semper Fi Fund — I feel empowered. I have hope and I have something to look forward to. That makes all the difference in the world.”