The impacts of military service are not limited to the men and women who return from deployments stateside or internationally – the visible and invisible wounds of war affect friendships and families.
U.S. Air Force veteran Joshua Gage worked on military aircraft from 2008 until he was medically retired in 2021. As a result of his service, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, debilitating back injuries and neuropathy. Upon his retirement, it was up to his wife Sarah, to care for his every need. To complicate matters, Josh and Sarah’s son, Calvin, was born with complex medical needs.
“It was sad,” Sarah says. “You could tell the difference when walking into the house. We didn’t communicate – Josh wasn’t willing to talk or express his emotions. He didn’t go anywhere.”
Josh was partnered with Service Dog Maverick who is trained in tasks to assist with Josh’s physical disabilities and his symptoms of PTSD. Sarah knew that Maverick would provide a benefit to Josh, but they didn’t anticipate the true scope of Maverick’s impact on their whole lives.
Maverick makes sure Josh is safe by retrieving his medication bag or cane and providing a safe buffer in crowds to decrease anxiety. Sarah was able to return to work for the first time in years, and Maverick helps Josh get out of the house and talk to people. He is able to join the rest of the family for Calvin’s numerous medical appointments.
“Maverick reconnected us – we do everything as a family now,” says Sarah. “Josh is much less anxious at home and in public. I wasn’t expecting such a difference.”
Through Maverick, Josh has regained some of his independence and the whole family dynamic has changed for the better. Sarah says they know Josh won’t be 100% the person he was before his injury, but with Maverick, he’s so much closer.