Wreaths Across America annually honors individuals who represent the best of the best when it comes to serving the organization's mission to remember, honor and teach. This year a new category of award was created to recognize the efforts of military service animals.
The first annual Military Service Animal award is inspired by Peter the Caisson Horse recently adopted by the Worcester family. The award was presented to U.S. Army Captain Leslie Nicole Smith (Retired) last week during the 3rd Annual WAA-United States Patent and Trade Office Military Association's Service and Recognition Awards Ceremony on behalf of her service dog Issac.
According to CAPT. Smith, Issac is an eight to eight-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab/retriever mix trained by the Marines incarcerated in the military brig at Camp Lejeune North Carolina. She and Issac met for the first time in October of 2009 and bonded almost immediately.
"We were meant to be together," Leslie explained during her acceptance speech. "Issac was a stray picked up by a shelter, but he was so wild and rambunctious no one wanted to adopt him, so he was scheduled to be euthanized. He only had twenty-four hours to live, and at the end of my deployment to Bosnia I developed this blood clot and wound up being placed on imminent death status when I arrived at Walter Reed."
Leslie went on to describe her raw emotional pain and anguish when she was sent home with Issac and had to cope with the reality she was an amputee, and legally blind.
"It was not until that next morning that I realized the depth of Issac's understanding and compassion and the bond that we have. I sat down and started to cry, and he positioned himself right in front of me. With the most gentle little kisses using the very tip of his tongue like a little butterfly he licked the tears off my cheek as if he was saying, 'Mom, I've got you, don't worry I'm right here with you."
Leslie says service dogs like Issac are making a world of difference in the healing and recovery of wounded, ill and injured service members, and she's grateful to the Worcester family and Peter the Caisson Horse for the award.
Issac is also in the running for another coveted title, the Hero Dog Award sponsored by American Humane. Leslie is hopeful you might take a few minutes to vote for Issac today so he can move into the next round of competition. You can click on this link to place your vote for Issac now. Time to vote in this round is running out quickly!
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"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
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"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
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"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
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"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."