Therapy dog makes big impact on veterans and their families

Published: Jul. 24, 2016 at 8:26 PM CDT
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A four-year-old Great Dane is making a big impact on Missouri veterans and their families.

Bandit was once a rescue dog. Now, he travels across the state and even the country to comfort thousands of military members.

He's calm, friendly, and loved by people of all ages, but his best companions are those who fight for the red, white, and blue.

"When I got medevaced out of Afghanistan. I got medevaced to Fort Leonard Wood WT, Warriors in Transition unit." Army Veteran Cory Davis said.

Davis says coming home after being injured in combat isn't an easy transition, but Bandit helps.

"He's just one of those dogs. When you're feeling down and sad about what you're going through, he's going to uplift you just because of who he is. Anybody who doesn't like dogs is lying, especially soldiers," Davis said.

Director of Fort Leonard Wood USO Kelly Brownfield says Bandit visits about 100,000 military members every year.

"Not only has he touched lives, we've had many military say he's saved their own life. He works with many military on suicide watch and sometimes we will hear back that, if it wasn't for Bandit, they don't know that they would do and Bandit has reminded them what it was like to love again," Brownfield said.

Bandit made a stop at Bass Pro Shops on July 23 and 24, so the public could learn more about Brandit's service and what USO has to offer.

"Its a wonderful cause. We try and do what we can for veterans, for military," Bass Pro Shops Operations Manager Pete Duchrow said.

"USO is about supporting our active duty military, guard and reserve, just making their life a little bit easier for everything that they do for us," USO of Missouri Executive Director Kathy O'Conner said.

From being the rescued to doing the rescuing, Bandit is giving back to our heroes.

"Bandit is the therapy dog. He has the heart and passion to know what he needs to do and when he needs to do it," Brownfield said.

Bandit is based out of Fort Leonard Wood, but he'll soon make a trip to Arlington National Cemetery to work with Families of the Fallen. On the way, he'll be visiting as many veterans as possible.

You can follow Bandit on Facebook by searching Bandit the Therapy Dog.