SHEBOYGAN FALLS, Wis. — On a peaceful farm in Sheboygan Falls, a story of survival, support, and service.
Veteran Timothy La Sage describes his military service during the Iraq War.
"That came with a lot of honor, to see people be thankful that live in a different country, different religion, different everything hugging and thanking us for standing up for them."
The farm is run by Dogs2DogTags.
Founder Torre Willadsen explains, "I had to find a way to pay back."
It's a place where canines get training to support veterans.
Willadsen volunteered to go to Afghanistan to train dogs for soldiers.
He explains, "When I was offered the job to be a bomb dog trainer, I said the only way I was going to do it was if I could go to Afghanistan with them. They were like what?!"
Willadsen sees how pet reinforcement boosts veterans' emotional health.
La Sage was at the farm to get additional training for the American Bully he shares with his girlfriend.
La Sage served as a sniper and first responder when in Iraq. He was awarded two purple hearts. His survival could be called a miracle. He shows visible evidence of his wounds.
"This leg, I lost all my abductor muscle. The VA report says I could put a softball through that leg."
While in Iraq, La Sage witnessed a fatal blast where two fellow soldiers standing nearby were killed.
"My second purple heart, two gentlemen to the left and right of me died instantly from an explosion that I took a bunch of wounds from. My femoral artery was exposed, and I could have died in seconds, and God allowed me to be here still."
Service dog Bane was a faithful companion as La Sage dealt with the emotional and physical scars.
"I had a full knee replaced and he was there for the recovery of that. He knows that somebody's hurt."
La Sage praises Dogs2DogTags for helping lift veterans when they need it the most.
"To see what they're actually doing with dogs and veterans they're training veterans to manage a trained dog and having a dog that's respectful polite and loving as well, it's so important."
He adds, "It's my job to live in honor of those who aren't here, and make sure our nations realize the weight and effort it takes to protect the nation."
And his heart is filled with gratitude that his service to America did not leave his kids without a father.
"If there was a purpose in life that I was given, it was to be their dad."
And brave Marines like La Sage are a reminder to all of us not to take life for granted.
"I would say cherish every moment and be thankful for every moment because it can change just like that."
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