CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s the war after the war, and in some cases, their toughest battle.

A 2020 survey found 83% of all U.S. Veterans, as well as active duty service men and women, have experienced PTSD since the 9/11 attack, as a result of their military service.

The numbers are shocking, but those at Clear Path For Veterans in Chittenango are working to create a brighter future for our vets and support their journey home.

They’re training dogs to serve those who served our country, and they were just given a $23,000 dollar grant from the CNY Community Foundation to help.

Ryan Woodruff is the National Director of Canine Programming at Clear Path For Veterans. He was a recipient of the Canine Program before joining the team there.

“When I got out I was just trying to figure it out,” Woodruff said.

Two deployments and four years later, our freedoms came at his cost.

“When you transition from military to civilian culture, you’ve lost something.”

Ryan Woodruff

While Ryan was trying to find his path, Harley found him.

Harley’s four legs and sweet soul put Woodruff back on his feet.

You lose that comradery and the relationship that you had with those brothers and sisters that you served with, and a dog does a really good job of facilitating that loss.

Ryan Woodruff

The type of loss he’s talking about can sometimes turn catastrophic.

In 2019, VAntage Point recorded 6,261 Veteran suicides, and while these dogs can’t fix everything, they certainly help.

“This is not meant to replace anything clinically, but it’s complimentary,” Woodruff said.

They know the vet before they train the puppy. So, they can tailor everything to meet their needs.

“Whether it be isolation, panic attacks, nightmares, lack of social engagement,” Woodruff said.

Right now, Woodruff is an active Guardian for a yellow lab, Chase. He’s a little puppy who will soon have a big responsibility.

“He comes to church with me, goes to work with me, goes to the store with me, and he learns to basically assimilate his day-to-day routine with mine,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff will lead Chase through two years of training, so Chase can lead a hometown hero to a more fulfilling future.

“To provide what is a life-saving, living, breathing animal to an individual who can truly benefit from that, there’s nothing greater.”

Ryan Woodruff

The donation from the Community Foundation will help them cover veterinary costs and other expenses such as enrichment, food, and training.

“Any way that we can help alleviate some of those ongoing costs is only good for the organization and frees up money for them so that they can use those funds on other things,” said Danielle Johnson, the senior director of grants & programs at the Community Foundation.

The money comes from a fund supporting working dogs, thanks to generous community donations.

“We’re very fortunate as a community to have people who are forward-thinking, that are looking to long-term investment in nonprofit organizations,” said Johnson.

If you’d like to volunteer with the Canine Program, they have several short-term and long-term opportunities.

You can email or visit their website to download the Canine Guardian form.