Jason Dameron said he was anxious, brittle and frail before meeting his service dog, Izzy the Rottweiler.
Long before their first meeting, Dameron was a confident infantryman earning his stripes in the Army.
“It was about being a part of something bigger than myself,” Dameron said.
His father served in Desert Storm, and his four brothers are all serving or retired military.
“I wanted to make my dad proud and be the best soldier I could be.”
Yet, after 15 years in the Army, with a total of 77 months spent deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Tunisia, Dameron was dealing with life-altering injuries in incidents that earned him a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. In Afghanistan, Dameron suffered a brain injury with lasting effects.
“I began having seizures, and (my doctors) didn’t know what caused them,” he said. “I didn’t have a strong support system at this time.”
His neurologist suggested he look into getting a service dog. These specially trained dogs can be useful for people who have seizures when they’re alone. Izzy sits on Dameron when he’s in the midst of a seizure, preventing injury. Despite Dameron’s disappointment with being unable to remain a soldier, the Warrior Transition Brigade played a significant role in helping him gain control of his life. The unit fully supported his quest for a service dog, providing accommodations to ensure his dream became a reality, he said.
He received approval from his neurologist and psychologist for a service dog to help with his seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes Dameron feel nervous when approached from behind. Izzy is trained to look for those approaching and form a barrier between them and her owner.
“Pre-Izzy, I was a wreck,” Dameron said. “But once I got her, that stopped on a dime.”
“When Jason and Izzy met, it was love at first sight,” said Bart Sherwood, program director, executive officer and co-founder of Train a Dog, Save a Warrior, the program that paired Dameron and his dog.
Izzy has been with Dameron as a certified service dog for two years. They were the second success story for the program and the first team training in the Fort Hood area. Dameron relishes serving as a “mouthpiece” for the organization.
“Bart is a saint,” he said.
Once Dameron’s application for a dog was approved, Sherwood, based in San Antonio, spent weeks looking for a trainer, eventually finding Lisa Williams in Waco.
She trained Izzy for months, both alone and alongside Dameron.
“She’s another part of my support system,” said Dameron, also crediting his close friends for his recovery.
“Jason’s a valuable ambassador for (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior),” Sherwood said.
With more than 50 teams now training in the Fort Hood area, it is clear that Dameron’s endorsement of the organization hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Since 2010, there are 153 accredited service dogs through the program and more than 245 now training.
For Jason and Izzy, their bond is growing stronger. “He thinks Izzy saved his life,” Sherwood said.