DIAMOND TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — Chris Miller of Portage County left his home at the age of 18 wanting a challenge in life. So he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“My whole family is military. They were all Army and I joined the Marine Corps, and I will never forget my grandfather saying, ‘What were you thinking?’ I said, ‘We look good in our dress blues. Grandpa,'” Miller said.
Miller’s military career took him from Camp Lejune to both coasts of the United States, Noval Scotia and Haiti.
During that time, he was shot twice, stabbed and ultimately gravely wounded after he fell fifty feet from a mountain.
“We were coming out of a mountain top and the cliff edge gave way and I fell 50 feet straight down. It left me in the hospital for about eight months. I was paralyzed from the neck down for a while and had to learn to walk all over again. The challenge is getting out and going through that. It was unreal,” Miller said.
The injuries left him requiring multiple surgeries. Now, a brace helps him walk and stand with limited use of one of his legs.
“In 2010 I was in a very bad state. There were things going on that was just, I didn’t think I could crawl out of a hole,” he said.
Later Miller said he would be introduced to an organization based in St. Louis called Dogs for our Brave, which rescues dogs from shelters and then trains them to be service dogs for wounded veterans.
“And even though they were only placing dogs with amputees, I was the first limb-salvaged gentleman that walked in the door,” Miller said.
The organization paired Miller up with a dog named Zulu, and he said it changed his life.
“In the middle of the night now when I’m starting to have some night terrors and problems at night. She comes up and licks my face and wakes me up out of that problem as soon as it starts. It has drastically stopped,” he said. “Zulu has picked a penny up off the floor, a quarter, a phone, my keys. I tell every veteran it’s the hundred small things a day you know that she does that helps me through my life you know being a better father and husband is huge for me.”
Miller has since become an ambassador for service dogs from Dogs for our Brave, traveling the country and talking with other veterans. He helps raise awareness and contributions to help other veterans like himself.
“It’s extremely exciting when we get a new veteran into the program, and they get to be with their service dog because you know you are really making that difference,” he said. “We’re Americans and you know, the military, we always have each other’s back that’s how we should be day in and day out. With Zulu by my side now I can do that,” Miller said.
The organization now has 16 dogs paired with wounded veterans.
Bridgett McCauley is their Training Director. She also travels the country continuing to work with the veterans and their dogs.
“We are a little bit different because we actually cover the cost of the dog for the life of the dog, so like Chris Miller and Zulu, they have everything they need to be sent to their house whether that be any kind of new equipment that’s gotten run down, all of their food, any treats and toys that she needs for training, any other equipment like a treadmill and then all the veterinary care and pharmaceuticals as well,” McCauley said.
Dogs for Our Brave operates entirely on contributions and fundraisers. Click here to learn more about the organization.