As we get ready to celebrate our nations independence we remember our veterans and active duty service members who continue to fight for this country. For one Wichita Falls man that is no longer a reality. An illness ended his career in the army but he later gained hope through the actions of convicted criminals.
David Misner is an army veteran. He was discharged three years ago while stationed as a biomedical engineer in Fort Lewis, Washington.
I start doing PT and I'd get about a half mile into my two mile run and my legs would be numb," he said. "About three years ago they finally diagnosed me with MS."
Multiple Sclerosis affects his brain and spinal cord causing him to lose muscle control. To get around David Misner uses a walking stick, a wheelchair and Sergeant.
Not only can the dog do small tasks, like pick up David's keys, but Sergeant gives David a sense of completion.
"Just the emotional part of me having him knowing the small things are not so big anymore."
Sergeant has really become part of the family fitting in with David's wife and three kids. Their four legged friend didn't just randomly walk into their lives. They were introduced in the most unlikeliest of places.
Four hours away from Wichita Falls is Gatesville, Texas home of several prisons. Two of the women's prisons serve as the training center for Patriot Paws.
"I'm here for murder," said inmate Christi Pericolosi. "I've been incarcerated for almost eight years."
"We have about 32 female offenders that are training our dogs," said Rhonda Lee with Patriot Paws.
A woman named Lori Stevens started Patriot Paws in 2006. Two years later she teamed up with the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice and the Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville; all to help pair disabled veterans with a service dog.
"I've done a lot of wrong in my life, made a lot of mistakes but I saw this as an opportunity to give back," said Pericolosi.
"It's just an all around life changing experience for me and the veterans and my coworkers," said inmate Casey Callahan.
The dogs stay with the women for 24/7 and rotate between inmates every few months; still for many if not all attachment is hard to resist.
"It does bother you for a little bit," said Pericolosi. "I'm depressed for a couple of days but you get over it because you know it's for the better of the dog."
Both inmates met David when he came for his dog in March. It was a week long graduation ceremony that released the dogs from the inmates into the hands of veterans.
"We let 'em come out one at a time and they just kind of circle around cause usually the dog chooses the veteran," said Lee with Patriot Paws.
For the prisoners involved in Patriot Paws this is their chance to make right with what they once did wrong.
"It helps me be proud of myself again. It's given back some of the dignity I lost," said Callahan.
"It really is life changing for them and for us," said David Misner.
Christi Pericolosi will be on parole next month. Casey Callahan will be up for parole at the end of next year. If you would like to learn more about Patriot Paws or donate to the non-profit we have all that information for you right here.