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PTSD ride helps support service dogs for veterans

"It was a good day and a good ride," Richard Martin said of the Park Rapids American Legion Riders PTSD Ride held Saturday.

The group hosted the 4th annual event to raise money for Patriot Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization in Detroit Lakes that trains and matches service dogs to military veterans.

The motorcycle ride raised nearly $1,100 with 35 riders and 10 passengers taking off from the American Legion on a 130-mile route from Park Rapids to Wolf Lake, up through Lake George, down into Akeley and back to Park Rapids.

Riders from throughout Minnesota and North Dakota representing various organizations participated in the event.

"I was very pleased and I'm really thankful for all of them," said Martin, one of the event organizers. "I think we found a good day to ride on MIA/POW day. It makes every combat veteran pretty happy to ride on that day."

Eugene Anderson and Terry Phillips, both of Park Rapids, participated for the first time in the PTSD ride, and said the ride to raise money for service dogs is a very important cause.

"The dogs are comforting a lot of these guys," Anderson said. "They bring a lot of comfort and the guys always have a companion with them."

Phillips, who had his purple three-wheel bike with a 1972 Volkswagon motor on the ride, said he tries to do all the Legion rides and supports "anything to do with veterans and the military."

Martin pointed out the importance of money raised for the service dogs because 22 veterans a day on average commit suicide.

Martin served two Army tours in Vietnam. He struggles with PTSD and was diagnosed with chronic lymphoma leukemia in February and is undergoing chemotherapy. He now has Benny, a 3-year-old White German Shepherd/Husky mix rescued from Headwaters Animal Shelter.

"I know what PTSD is all about. I've been dealing with it since 1970 and that dog really does his job. He's a lifesaver," Martin said. "More love from the animal and less medication. With my dog my anxiety level is less and I can stop a night terror before it gets going. The dog can see it and wake me up."

Richie Theusch rode from Sebeka to participate in Saturday's ride. He's a combat veteran and says he does quite a few of these rides in the summer.

"It's a good cause and I know they help the vets," Theusch said. "A lot of vets have PTSD. The dogs do a lot of good for a person."

According to Patriot Assistance Dogs, the average cost of training a service dog is $10,000 and the animals are placed at no cost to the veterans.

Dogs may be donated, rescued or bred for the program. Each canine receives a complete medical evaluation and vaccinations. The service dogs are trained to meet individual veteran's needs, such as reminding them to take medication, interrupting harmful behavior, leading them away from stressful situations, interrupting panic attacks, and waking them from night terrors.

Prior to Saturday's ride the Minnesota chapter of Wounded Warriors presented Patriot Assistance Dogs with $1,000 to assist a veteran with travel expenses, meals and lodging, as well as another $1,000 to assist the group in paying veterinarian fees.