JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. — They're called man's best friend or in this case, a veteran's best friend. Dogs can provide comfort and companionship for us but help and healing for our veterans suffering from physical and mental setbacks.
Trainers teach service dogs to function in every element of a veteran's life and that includes the friendly skies.
Paw by paw, Tuesday morning, six service dogs boarded a small airplane. Behesha Doan trained them all.
She's president of "This Able Veteran." It's a local charity that prepares furry friends for their active duty.
"The need is so profound for dogs trained to this level," said Doan.
More than 100 veterans have filled out applications to receive dogs. The six taking to the skies are the first group the charity's trained. The training process can last 18 months.
During Tuesday's flight, the dogs learned what it was like to fly with their handlers.
"Before, you get angry. You go be by yourself. You're alone and angry. That's all there is," said Jason Brown.
Brown served two tours of duty in Iraq. He struggled with releasing all his anger. That is, until he met his service dog Tonka. Things have changed for the better.
"You can't look at him and be mad you know," he said.
Kevin Macdonald has been living with his dog Buck for about a week. Macdonald has trouble keeping his balance. He said having a dog to tag along helps.
"I just hang on to him, and he keeps me going. He keeps me steady," he said.
Each dog spent about a half hour in the air before making their way back to the Southern Illinois Airport.
The charity "This Able Veteran" is looking for financial support so they can train more dogs. You can find a link to their Facebook page by clicking here.