WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - It's been reported that more than 20 veterans take their lives every day.
And every year, hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs are put to sleep.
A new program from American Humane called "Shelter to Service," aims to match veterans who need help with shelter dogs who will eventually become their service dogs.
On Sunday night, many people celebrated America's vets and pets at a special reception in Northwest DC, including one Marine Corp Specialist and the dog he said saved his life.
John Gerula, of Pennsylvania, signed up for the Marine Corps after 9/11.
He went to Iraq, where he said IEDs went off regularly.
"We were getting hit 20-30 times a day with rockets, indirect fire," he said.
Gerula came back from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
He said he coped with things himself.
“I went down a long spiral, did a lot of drinking, lot of anger issues, with no help from anybody to get me through it,” he said.
He said the experience “ruined my family type thing, marriage, divorce, everything like that."
Gerula said it was tough to get help.
He wanted a service dog, but the wait and the cost was too much.
Then he found out about the Shelter to Service program, which is how he got Oliver.
The pup had been in a high-kill shelter.
John said they saved each other's lives.
"There are thousands of veterans that don't have the assistance I'm getting right now. Twenty-two veterans kill themselves a day by suicide because they're not getting the help they need,” he said.
He added, “If American Humane can give even 20 of them even a year (of a service dog), that's 20 veterans that aren't going to commit suicide."
American Humane said the program costs nothing for veterans.
The organization relies on donations.
For more information or to support the "Shelter to Service" program, visit www.AmericanHumane.org
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