Chris And Soleil

blog post Chris And Soleil

Chris joined the Marines right after 9/11 because he saw them helping the NYPD sort through the rubble. He became a Marine to fight abroad and then a police officer to fight at home; as a result, he needed therapy. Now after his service and his healing, he’s going back to school to earn a degree in psychology in order to become a therapist to help other soldiers work through their issues as well. Nothing about that is weak.

Multiple reasons exist for not accepting help, but a few of the reoccurring themes are: not wanting to be looked down upon, pitied, or judged by others because of a label; feeling unworthy of the help offered because someone else has it worse; or feeling weak for expressing feelings. For whatever reason, many veterans bottle up their traumas and force it down deeper and deeper. They feel that they have to shoulder their burden alone because it’s no ones else’s to shoulder. The truth is that all human beings have psychological and emotional needs that are just as real as physical ones. It doesn’t matter how tough somebody is, carrying the weight of the world and all of its demons is too much for one person. People are not meant to live alone. It’s not weak to speak, it actually takes more guts to open up then shut down.

Chris’s story has to stay mostly vague due to his safety. After the Marines, Chris got a job with a federal agency that required him to spend most of his time blending into his surroundings instead of standing out. In both the Marines and police work, Chris worked undercover in a lot of different situations as either protection for good guys or destruction of bad guys. Without going into too much detail, Chris has made a fair amount of enemies by destroying the “careers” of many nefarious individuals.

Despite the confidentiality, there are a few stories he can share that create enough context for other people to be sympathetic. In 2006, Chris was about to board the plane to Kuwait when he found out his wife of just a couple months was pregnant. He was excited and nervous, but had a job to do, so he boarded, carried on, and lived the pregnancy vicariously through snail mailed sonograms. Chris and another Marine, who was also expecting his first child, spent time together and bonded over the shared experience. Chris was originally scheduled to leave in time for the birth of his son, but leaked information from an Iraqi police officer at his local barber gave the enemy the flight plans coming and going from Chris’s base. Because so many helicopters were being shot down by enemy fire, Chris was grounded and missed the birth of his son. Only 5 days later, Chris, his expecting friend, and another soldier were delivering supplies to a humanitarian facility in Iraq when a hidden bomb detonated. Chris happened to be outside the vehicle, but his friend was driving. That soldier lost his life that day and never got to meet his baby girl. The physical effects of that explosion caused serious injury to Chris, but he didn’t realize that it had also now caused psychological ones as well. Fast forward through Chris’s police career where he spent much time infiltrating NYC gangs, living dangerously, and creating enemies— his problems with paranoia grew. Other effects of PTSD and TBI were obvious within Chris’s behavior, but he was one of those people that felt his issues weren’t as bad as someone else’s, and he shouldn’t take their spot at therapy.

Right before his grandmother passed, she convinced him that his reclusive behavior wasn’t normal and made him promise to go to therapy. He unwillingly agreed but went. It wasn’t until years after the trauma Chris realized how badly it really had affected him; however, now that he knows what the problems are, he can work on fixing them. His current support group is how we established our connection and ultimately resulted in Chris receiving a service animal from the Anytime Fitness Games.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to better yourself because if you spend the rest of the life that you have hating it, it’s disrespectful to the others that lost theirs. My friend didn’t make it home to live the rest of his life; I did, what kind of honor would I give him if I were to spend the rest of my life not really living?” - Chris

Chris was paired and immediately bonded with Soleil (So-Lay) at the Fortified K-9 Training facility on Friday May 20, 2022. She is a 1.5 yr old Belgian Malinois who loves to have her ears rubbed. Soleil is French for “Sun.” It is no coincidence that a guy who wishes to spend his life moving away from the darkness was paired with a dog that spreads light. Soleil is sweet as pie, but will rip your face off if you cross Chris. She is friendly and playful and can make even the worst of Chris' days sunny. Always watching his six, Chris feels much more comfortable leaving his home than he did before. With a combined 10 years in the Marines and Police Force, Chris has earned the right to be a little skeptical of others. Soleil helps him manage public spaces much easier than before. With her always looking out for his six, he feels safer and free-er to participate in activities that he would normally avoid. He can now really live his life.

"Soleil has done what no VA treatment or medication have been able to do. She has normalized my life. She isn't a pet, she is family." - Chris R