PAWS Act passed: Iraq war vet shares thoughts

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.– Despite increase public attention and funding, the rate of suicide among veterans has ticked upwards in recent years. That’s according to the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, which reports about 20 veterans die from suicide per day. Demecia Rogers, a U.S. Army Iraq War Veteran, addresses these statistics, saying, “there is still a stigma attached to mental health, and we’ve been at war for so long that it is ridiculous we still have these stigmas.”

Rogers was honorably discharged from Iraq in 2004 because of more than visible wounds. While deployed she was sexually assaulted by her non-commissioned officer (NCO). Rogers says that led to a difficult period of isolation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which she regularly met a counselor to treat. However, she says at the time her unit would rather deny mental struggles even existed, and the chain of command would put pressure on them to not seek mental health.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs estimates 20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. To assist veterans, President Biden has signed the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act” (PAWS Act) into law. This makes it easier to veterans suffering from PTSD to get a new battle buddy. The $10 million five-year pilot program will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Rogers adopted a fury friend in 2011, and says she can finally relax. She also says the PAWS Act will be beneficial for the servicemembers returning from Afghanistan. She adds, “with the PAWS Act, more service dogs are getting out there. More veterans are working with dogs. And so, the public is going to become more aware this is a silent killer.”

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