This Is Carolina: Elite military dogs come to aid of ‘wounded warriors’

Published on WMBF News on March 21, 2018
By Meredith Helline, Anchor

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Last week, WMBF aired a special This Is Carolina about a local charity called SOWW, which stands for Special Operations Wounded Warriors.

SOWW members and hunters take part annually in a hog hunt called Takin Bacon. It happens under the radar.

Part one looked at Takin Bacon 2018 and how SOWW made a difference for one retired Army Ranger when the group gave him a new military service dog that will change his life.

This week’s part two took a deeper look at how that surprise came to be.

SOWW is beginning a new chapter of this canine charity. It was inspired locally by an American war hero and led to a partnership with a Canadian-based elite canine training company, Baden K-9.

A few days before the Takin Bacon weekend event, WMBF News was invited to a SOWW board member’s home, where other board members and charity benefactors were gathering for a day of food, music and camaraderie before the big event.

“We lose 22 of these guys a day and that number rings in my head constantly,” said Jud Kuhn, a SOWW board member and Horry County businessman. “This is a battle that’s going to take many, many, many of us to do.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder and military suicides are battles the SOWW charity is fighting with a new weapon. It was inspired by a chance encounter between Kuhn and a veteran named Josh.

“I met a gentleman that was a double amputee Green Beret that was a dog handler,” Kuhn said. “He had a Malinois named Archie. Archie was a very impressive dog, very intense when he was told to be intense. Well, then Josh and I ended up having a relationship and decided we would start the dog program.”

A friendship blossomed and so did a life-changing commitment when that happened.

“Our goal is, let’s not do 22 deaths a day. Let’s get it down to 18; let’s get down to 14, 12,” Kuhn said. “I really believe these experiences with these canines will lower that number. I really believe that in my heart.”

Just as quickly as the race to find an Archie for every veteran began, Josh’s battle with PTSD came to an end. Unexpectedly, he became one of the 22.

“That’s what fueled me. I said, ‘OK, Josh was gone,’” Kuhn said. “So I sat around one night and I wrote down Josh, and I wrote down Joining Obedience Shepherds with Heroes … and I decided that’s what we’re going to do.”

Just like that, SOWW’s partnership with Baden K-9 began.

“One of the best things about having a battle dog, a military working dog, a dog like this, is it actually forces you to re-sharpen,” said Kevin Whitenect, a military contractor. “He must become sharp and remain sharp in his awareness of his environment, how he communicates and moves in his environment, or the dogs are going to control everything.”

After 17 years of military and special operations service in the Canadian Armed Forces, Whitenect is now a military contractor who uses his dog, Callie, as an example of what Baden K-9 is doing for SOWW.

“A typical day with Callie is a day of training in preparation for operations,” he said. “The operation could be this, coming here to SOWW to hang out with operators, do some demos, give them some education on family protection dogs or military working dogs. That could be the operation, or the operation could be punching into northwest Mosul on the last punch against ISIS.”

Callie is a demonstration dog, and Kuhn uses his Baden K-9 trained dog as the same. The canines are introduced to veterans at SOWW events.

Highly trained and skilled like its operator, each Baden canine can be like Callie. Or, the animal can serve as a service and high-end family obedience and protection dog. The dogs are also capable of doing all of the above.

“Dogs can travel with the family, whether that be on airlines, buses, restaurants, shopping. But we are here to support, you know, if a veteran’s family wants a puppy and that is going to bring support to the family and children. We are here for puppies,” Perry said.

Dogs aren’t only donated to veterans, but also active duty members who will be deployed.

“Not just the PTSD, but there’s warriors out there that while they are deployed – and the family is at home – that is a concern for them while they are deployed, and the protection dog is at home watching over their most valuable assets, which is their wife and children,” Perry said. “That enables them to operate more effectively and more peacefully.”

Baden K-9 is Canadian-based. It’s a decades-old family- and veteran-owned and operated company, with every dog from German bloodlines.

“My father and where the foundation of where the company came from, we don’t look for a specific look. We are looking for a capability. Where the retriever used to retrieve and that was tested on its capability, now it’s tested on its look,” Perry said.

Perry said whatever the SOWW veteran wants out of the dog, he gets.

“It varies on the need,” Perry said. “If they are looking for a trained, a fully-trained dog can be anywhere from 10 to 13, 14 months.”

Training doesn’t happen overnight, and the wait list is long.

“There is a lot of veterans out there waiting,” Perry said. “I’ve spoke to veterans before…they’ve been waiting a couple of years to get a dog. You know two minutes is a long time; two years is a very long time. How does a dog go to places that medicine and men can’t?”

Whitenect may have some of that answer.

“The greatest thing that a dog can do for the warrior is it forces him to reconnect with other human beings,” he said. “One of the greatest challenges for warriors that are suffering from emotional distress of combat, physical trauma or combat brain trauma is isolation. They get isolated from their teams, their units, unfortunately, and then begin to isolate themselves, by choice, mostly by choice, from their families, from their friends. So for me it was a re-sharpening and a re-edging of myself as a knife, which is really what all warriors fear the most is becoming dull and no longer being dangerous.”

So one by one, SOWW and Baden K-9 are slowly chipping away at the number 22, with Josh’s memory in mind, finding ways to fight the clock and get more of these dogs into the hands of active special operations members as well as veterans.

The goal is for SOWW to keep growing its partnerships to be able to integrate more of the dogs into veterans’ lives and make a difference.

This Is Carolina: Retired Army Ranger gets surprise of a lifetime at charitable hunt

Published on WMBF News on March 24, 2018
By Meredith Helline, Anchor

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and Green Berets are some of the elitist branches in the military.

After years of battle, those warriors are coming home to face another battle – civilian life. But an event hosted under the radar and protected by around-the-clock security is working to help these warriors. It’s a locally-grown charity called SOWW.

SOWW stands for Special Operations Wounded Warriors. It’s a 501c3 charity, where almost 100 percent of the money raised goes back to benefiting special operations active duty members and veterans.

It began in Horry County in 2012, after a group of local businessmen took another group of veterans hog hunting. The benefits for the veterans were hard to ignore.

SOWW has slowly grown throughout the United States, but hosts most of its events in the southeastern part of the country. One SOWW board member and Horry County businessman, Jud Kuhn, has been touched by the charity and now dedicates most of his time to it.

Kuhn, a former Marine, got involved by a chance encounter. He works to make a difference and help bring the guys out of the dark holes they find themselves in.

“We bring all these guys in and put them in these outdoor environments – fishing, hunting, it could just be camping, it could be kayaking,” Kuhn said. “We’ve got generous people all over the United States, North America that allow us to bring these fellas in. (SOWW) pay their way – no expense to them – let them get out of that intense pressure cooker environment, and they start talking.”

SOWW’s weekend-long Carolina event, Takin Bacon, was held at the end of February. It was named for the inaugural hunt that started the charity.

“It’s not a hard group of guys to serve. When they enter the military, they write a check for their life,” Kuhn said.

The guys that come to Takin Bacon are special operations active duty members and veterans, many of whom are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or physical traumas. The event hosted 12 “hunters for this year’s hog hunt. Dozens of other active duty members and veterans showed up for support and to enjoy the brotherhood that comes with the SOWW event.

“And we get pictures from kids that thank us, for their daddy’s come home. They’ve been home, but their brain hadn’t, so we get them in those experiences,” Kuhn said. “They get to come home and they come out of their shell. That’s what these experiences do.”

However, this year’s event was not like the others.

“I was in a bad place and fighting with a lot of the demons that we fight with, guys like us,” retired Army Ranger Tim Lucero said.

Injured while overseas, Lucero struggled to be around people when he came home. He was one of the 12 men selected for Takin Bacon 2017 as a hunter. This year, he came for support.

“I thought we were just hunting. I had never been to anything like this. It wasn’t the hunt, it was everything else around the hunt,” Lucero said.

Suddenly, he began to find pieces that were missing from the event.

“It just started escalating, everything escalated. To be short, I kind of went nuts here. I was loving it,” Lucero said.

Takin Bacon 2018 will always be special to Lucero. He was one of the first SOWW veterans to receive a specially trained military and service dog as part of SOWW’s new partnership with Baden K-9.

It came as a complete surprise to Lucero.

“I was just floored, overcome with emotion,” he said. “This came from way out of left field. This was the uppercut I wasn’t ready for. I had no idea.”

Military dogs are not uncommon to see at SOWW events. Other members, as well as Kuhn, have their own specially trained dogs, but most were not donated.

The success of the dogs with other members helped encourage the partnership. Kuhn said the animals serve as these highly-skilled veterans’ “sword,” and help keep their minds sharp and content.

“We send them to far-away lands in small groups. They do their job. If one of them gets injured or comes home, we take their sword from them,” Kuhn said. “They say go back home and reconnect with the community. And now they don’t have their sword. These are elite warriors, they’re meant to have a sword.”

Lucero has his sword back through his new dog. Overcome with emotion, he said having the animal will help him reconnect with family and do things he hasn’t been able do since leaving the military.

“This dog right here is going to allow me to go to Disney World with my family. My family has been to Disney World three or four times and I have not been with them. I couldn’t go. My dog is going to allow me more freedom. He is going to be right there to pull me and that’s what I need sometimes,” he said.

Pulled out of the dark hole he came in, Lucero now has a lot to look forward to.

“He’ll go everywhere with me. I’ll not leave him anywhere. He’s going to be my new Ranger buddy,” he said.

Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge joins with Special Operations Wounded Warriors for a great hunt

Feral pigs are widely considered a nuisance species. The wild hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage every year all over the United States on both public and private lands, according to the Mississippi State University Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts. They are an invasivespecies that can disrupt entire food chains.

“They’re really bad for the ecosystem,” said Craig Sasser, refuge manager at Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina. “They out-compete everything in the swamp. They destroy roads and dikes, and they do a lot of damage to nearby farms. The refuge has developed a comprehensive management plan that includes public hunting, trapping, and enclosures to keep the impacts from feral pigs to a minimum.”

Click Here to Read Full Article

SOWW Partners With Baden K-9 For To Provide Service Dogs To Special Operators

SOWW is thrilled to partner with our friends in charity, Baden K-9, for the purpose of providing needed service dogs to Special Operators. Baden K-9 is a Christian family operated and owned business which was started over 40 years ago. Baden K-9 provides advanced training including but not limited to service dogs, family protection dogs, and law enforcement or military animals. Baden K-9 provides one on one training specific to each dog and its owner. This is to ensure that all clients will receive the best training from someone who has had years of hands on experience. Baden K-9 operates on a course of integrity, fortitude and dignity and has developed a sustaining training philosophy over the years. Baden K-9 is very proud to offer German, Dutch, and Belgian Shepherds. Each recipient will be paired with the best fit dog to assist with his or her needs.

SOWW, in partnership with Baden K-9 will provide the deserving recipient with the trained animal along with all of the training necessary for proper handling at no expense to the Operator. Also included will be the cost of travel related to initial training.

Click here to learn more or apply.

Quarterly PTS Retreats with The Elk Institute

SOWW partners once a quarter with Dr. Carrie Elk of the Elk Intitute to provide specialized treatment to Wounded Special Operators with specific needs in the areas related to PTSD. These week long retreats are provided at no cost to the operator and includes room and board. Each retreat is located in varying areas and geographies. Each retreat also has recreational time built around the therapy time so that it is a mix of relaxation and therapy. Participation in this treatment has proven to be extremely beneficial to those in need.

The Elk Institute for Psychological Health & Performance was established to provide individual and group education, consultation, treatment, and clinical research service to the military and veteran community locally, nationally and internationally. The Elk Institute is based in Tampa, Florida but provides remote on-site services around the globe.

The Institute specializes in psychological trauma (PTS, PTSD) in the military population. We seek to identify the issues and variables that compromise psychological health and performance and effective methods of eliminating barriers or correcting such issues. The goal is to reach, restore or surpass our patients’ optimal psychological health and wellness, contributing to the overall effectiveness of their day-to-day performance.

Dr. Elk served as a Subject Matter Expert to USSOCOM, where she has been an adjunct faculty member at the Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy, provides consultation, education & treatment to USSOCOMs Care Coalition as needed, and has worked in various entities within USSOCOM in this capacity. Elk Institute for Psychological Health & Performance is a professional member of (SOMA) Special Operations Medical Association.

Washington DC Event Announced

We are thrilled to announce that SOWW will be hosting a very special event in Washington DC on May 14th and 15th, 2015. This event is designed to increase awareness of SOWW and its mission to serve our injured Special Operations Forces. Check out the information below, and if you are in and around the DC area, we would love to see you there!

Matt Axelson Tribute Rifle Winner Announced

Congratulations to John O. of Ohio for being the winner of the beautiful Matt Axelson Tribute Rifle and Matt Axelson Tribute Knife!

We are also thrilled to announce that SOWW now holds the record holder for the largest amount of charitable funds generated by an Axelson Rifle. With your generous donation, we were able to raise over $30,000 in funds that will support the mission of SOWW during 2015.

Thank you to the hundreds of supporters that purchased a chance to win this beautiful rifle and knife.

Many thanks and appreciation go to Axelson Tactical who made all of this possible with their generous donation of the rifle. We were honored to help project the memory of Matt Axelson and his sacrifice for our Country. We are eternally grateful.

Retired Navy SEAL LT. Jason Redman to Highlight SOWW Dinner & Charity Auction as Guest Speaker

SOWW is happy to announce that retired Navy SEAL, Lt. Jason Redman, will be serving as our guest speaker at our upcoming Wild Game Dinner and Fundraiser on February 7th, 2015. The event will be held at The Crown Reef Conference Center in Myrtle Beach, SC from 5:30pm – 10:00pm.

REDMAN BIOGRAPHY

Jason Redman was born in a small town in southern central Ohio and attended schools in Ohio, North Carolina, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida before graduating from Lumberton High School in Southern North Carolina.  He joined the Navy on September 11, 1992 and began his naval career at boot camp in Orlando, Florida.

Jason spent his first two years in the Navy working as an Intelligence Specialist working for and around Naval Special Warfare.  During Boot Camp he tried out and was accepted for Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training (BUD/S) and he reported to BUD/S in January of 1995.  He enjoyed a full year of friendly instructors, relaxing times on the beach, and endless nights under the Coronado moon before graduating with BUD/S class 202 in December of 1995.

Jason set off on a whirlwind career, completing three deployments to South America where he conducted numerous Counter Drug missions throughout Colombia and Peru. He returned in December of 2000 to become an instructor for his SEAL Team’s Basic Land Warfare block of training.  He spent the next year and a half teaching Marksmanship, Reconnaissance and Surveillance operations, and advanced communications.

In August of 2000, Petty Officer 1st Class Redman was one of fifty naval enlisted members selected for the prestigious Seaman to Admiral Program.  He began school at Old Dominion University in August of 2001 and became a member of the Old Dominion University Navy ROTC working his way up to the become the Student Battalion Commander in charge of the largest NROTC Battalion on the East Coast. During his final semester Jason decided to create the Run for Freedom.  On April 3rd , 2004, Navy and Army ROTC Officer Candidates, Midshipmen, and Cadets, along with other ODU students, faculty and staff, joined community and military members in running the American flag nonstop on a one-mile course around the campus. Each mile, completed by a solo runner, was in honor of a single service man or woman killed in the War on Terror. At the completion of each lap, a small flag bearing the service member’s name was placed in a pegboard as a visual memorial to the more than 700 troops who have been killed since September 2001.  This momentous event raised more than $27,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Freedom Alliance, both of which provide scholarships and support for the families of the fallen troops.  It additionally received local, regional, and even national media coverage.  The success of the Run for Freedom was a direct reflection of the unification of a community behind a good idea for a great cause. Jason graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management; Summa Cum Laude with Honors in Business Administration.  He was commissioned in May of 2004 as a Naval SEAL Officer.

Ensign Redman immediately reported to his new SEAL Team and was directly assigned as an Assistant Platoon Commander.  His platoon deployed to Afghanistan in July of 2005 and conducted numerous operations that directly contributed to the Global War on Terror.

In May of 2006, he graduated from the grueling US Army Ranger Course of Instruction to further his tactical knowledge and increase his understanding of Joint Operations and Army mission planning. In May 2007, LTJG Redman deployed to Fallujah, Iraq and served as Mobility Force Commander and Assault Force Commander for over 40 Direct Action missions throughout western Iraq.

On September 13, 2007 while acting as Assault Force Commander on an operation to capture an Al Qaeda High Value Individual LTJG Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire and he along with two other Teammates were wounded in the ensuing firefight.  Despite being shot twice in the arm and once in the face, as well as multiple rounds to his helmet, Night Vision Goggles, body armor, and weapon, Jason and his Team fought valiantly winning the fight, ensuring everyone came home alive.

While recovering at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, LT Redman wrote and hung a bright orange sign on his door, which became a statement and symbol for wounded warriors everywhere.  This sign gained national recognition and earned LT Redman and his family an invitation to meet President George W. Bush. The original sign on the door, signed by President Bush, now hangs in the Wounded Ward at the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda.  After 37 surgeries, he uses his experiences as a severely wounded service member and positive attitude to motivate others and to continue to raise awareness of the sacrifices of America’s courageous military forces and their families.

This drive led him to create Wounded Wear, a Non-Profit organization designed to help wounded warriors, their families, and families of the fallen rediscover the Hero Within through free clothing, clothing modifications, and empowering events and opportunities. Additionally, Wounded Wear spreads awareness throughout the country of the sacrifices that wounded service members, their families, and the families of fallen service members have made in the name of freedom.

In Jason’s spare time he speaks across the country spreading his message of life, inspiration, and shedding light on the sacrifices that enable the Freedoms of our great republic.  He has spoken to many great organizations including the Marriott Corporation, the NFL Cincinnati Bengals, ODU Monarchs Football Team, NASCAR, and even had the honor to speak to the US Men’s 2010 Olympic Hockey team prior to their first game.

In July 2010, Jason joined three other wounded service members and reached the summit of Mount Rainier as a testament to wounded warriors and all Americans that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome if you have the drive, the determination, and the tenacity to rise above.

He was recognized in November of 2009 by his alma mater Old Dominion University with their prestigious Alumni Service Award in recognition of exemplary leadership, and significant, compassionate service to community, state, and nation and was a 2010 recipient of the Hope for the Warriors, Hope and Courage award.  The Hampton Roads community and Wendy’s recognized him with their Military Hero award in 2013.

In November of 2013, Jason with help of acclaimed writer John R. Bruning released, The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader.  It is on it’s way to being a national best seller.

Jason lives in Virgina with his wife Erica and three children Phoenix, Angelica, and Mackenzie

 

SOWW sending holiday packages to special operations forces overseas

See Video here: http://www.carolinalive.com/news/story.aspx?id=1129466#.VMpQQGjF-E0

 

Special Operations Wounded Warriors organization is sending 50 holiday packages to special operations teams overseas.

This is the second year SOWW has sent holiday boxes, and they were able to double the amount of troops they reached compared to last year.

SOWW is a local organization that works with wounded warriors and troops that have received a purple heart.

Jess Aylward, a member of the board of SOWW, said they received a lot of feedback from soldiers about the boxes last year.

He said there was one thing they asked for in this year’s packages.

“They wanted more candy, more calories.  They loved it,” said Aylward.

The boxes are filled with Snickers, Hershey bars, KitKats, and all kinds of candy.

Pine Lakes Tavern hosted the packaging event and also donated shot glasses, t-shirts and koozies.

Nick’s Cigar World in North Myrtle Beach also donated cigars and had a handwritten note with them that read, ‘Enjoy a small treat from home and get home soon.’

The boxes are going to two special operations teams in Afghanistan, just in time for the holidays.

“It’s just a friendly reminder that we are thinking about them and that it means something that they are over there,” said Aylward.

Close to a dozen volunteers gathered at pine lakes tavern in myrtle beach to divvy up donated items into each soldiers’ unexpected box.

“We try to do as much as we can. Sometimes we don’t do as much as we want to but just doing these little things, just coming out to Pine Lakes Tavern and having everybody to help these guys was a treat,” said Mike Lubas, the bar manager at Pine Lake Tavern in Myrtle Beach.

Lubas said it’s the little things in they put in the box that he hopes will make their holiday a little easier to get through because they won’t be home with their loved ones.

“For us it’s easy to run down to the corner store and just grab things that we need and want, those guys don’t have that luxury so it’s real nice to be able to supply them with just a little bit of home,” said Lubas.

If you would like to donate and help SOWW, you can log on to their website.

SOWW reunites wounded warrior with comrades who saved him. Great video documenting the event by WBTW TV-13

A great video recap of SOWW’s Veteran’s Day Event honoring Wounded Warrior Bobby Dove:

Watch Here: http://www.wbtw.com/story/27360085/myrtle-beach-group-reunites-wounded-warrior-with-comrades-who-saved-him