(NewsNation) — Eric Dudash, an Air Force veteran and retired Chief Master Sergeant, dealt with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being deployed 17 times, including during the Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm.
“It’s a daily battle,” the 30-year veteran said.
However, Dudash’s life was changed “forever” after he got a pet named Phantom through Warrior Freedom Service Dogs. Warrior Freedom is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting combat veterans suffering from PTSD to trained service dogs.
“They actually saved my life,” Dudash said on “Morning in America.”
While he had good days, some of his bad days got so severe that he had to seek help.
“Warrior Freedom did that,” he said. “Phantom did that. Phantom chose me when he was a year old.”
To help Dudash, Phantom always sits in a position to make sure no one comes up from him from behind — “not to bite them, but just probably lick them to death.”
“If I’m jittery or if my knee starts bouncing, he will lay his paw on my knee and I’ll pat his hand,” Dudash said.
Dudash still gets assistance from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and goes through Cognitive Processing Therapy training. Having Phantom, though, means Dudash has been able to lower the amount of medication he takes.
“The VA is pretty excited about that,” Dudash said.
Recently, Dudash received Alabama’s Veteran of the Year award.
“I am so humbled and honored because I didn’t know anything about it,” he said.
He does a lot of work with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, where he tries to spread a message that’s close to his heart.
“It’s OK to not be OK,” he said. “There is help. There are organizations out there that will help you. You’re not alone.”
For more information, you can visit Warrior Freedom’s website.