Sandra Bohle comes from a long line of military veterans. Her father served in World War II, and put boots on the ground at Iwo Jima and the Mariana Islands. Her brother was a medic in Vietnam, and her nephew served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This instilled in Bohle a deep understanding of the personal sacrifices that military people make, not just during the years they are actively engaged in the armed forces, but also in how they must carry those sacrifices with them throughout their lives.
Bohle was determined to give back to those who have sacrificed so much. She formed Angels for Veterans to “demonstrate deep gratitude and concern for all active duty and honorably discharged veterans of all branches of the United States military.”
The organization provides special needs accommodation to enhance veterans’ quality of life and offers clothing and other supplies to ease the burden of homelessness. They provide physical and emotional support and advocate on behalf of veterans as well. Through their Angel PAWS Dog Program, they also provide service and companion dogs free of charge to veterans with PTSD and other disabilities.
This mission of supporting our veterans is why Mercer Savings Bank selected Angels for Veterans as the March recipient of its Giving Mission donation.
Related article: Giving Mission Spotlight: Empowering Darke County Youth
Improving the Lives of Veterans
Bohle founded Angels for Veterans as a nonprofit in 2009 in Celina, Ohio. Initially, her organization supported local veterans with emergency relief, as well as donations to the Dayton VA hospital, and supported food pantries that serve veterans, such as the Lima, Ohio food pantry.
The organization’s support services expanded in 2012 after Bohle personally rescued a sweet shelter dog called Abby. Abby presented some challenges, and for the first time, Bohle found herself reaching out to professional trainers for help in managing Abby’s behavior.
“I loved her (Abby), and I was committed to her,” Bohle says. “And one day, many months into the process, I realized I would never give up on her. I realized it was like how I never give up on our veterans. I will never give up the hope that their lives are going to be better.”
This inspired Bohle to look into the benefits of pairing service and companion dogs with veterans. Thus, the Angel PAWS Dog Program was born.
The Magic and Miracle of Dogs
“It’s all about the magic and the miracle of that dog,” Bohle says of the relationships she facilitates between veterans and service dogs. “Even just a companion dog means so much to a person.”
Numerous studies back up Bohle’s observations about the “magic” of dogs as companions and service animals for veterans. A Purdue University study demonstrated that veterans with service and companion animals receive numerous psychological benefits. Veterans with service dogs were able to reduce their medications and had 22 percent greater life satisfaction than those without service animals. They also reported having fewer PTSD symptoms and lower levels of depression.
“We really do not understand the full capacity of why these dogs have such magical powers,” Bohle says. “We know we can train dogs to pick up objects, or train dogs to wake someone up from a nightmare. We know we can train dogs to hit a button and dispatch 911. We know these things. We train these things. But what we don’t know is…what makes this connection so strong that it can de-escalate anxiety and stress related to emotional trauma and PTSD that our veterans carry with them? But it does work. We see this, we hear it from the people we deal with directly.”
Bohle has numerous stories about how service and companion animals are impacting the veterans she serves.
One veteran who reached out to her was taking 14 different prescription pills to manage her condition. The veteran’s new service dog, Marco, now does mobility work for her and knows how to dial 911 if needed. Today, according to Bohle, the veteran is down to just three daily medications and is feeling much better.
“My biggest reward is to see the changes in these veterans’ lives and see their eyes light up.” – Sandra Bohle, Founder of Angels for Veterans
Donations Directly Serve Veterans
Being a small, grassroots organization, every dollar donated to Angels for Veteran goes directly to the veterans they serve. Bohle herself is a volunteer founder and director, donating her time to the company’s mission.
The training of a single specialized service dog costs several thousand dollars, so each donation the organization receives goes toward making that next dog possible, or is put toward food, clothing, and other supplies that relieve homelessness or services that provide physical, emotional, and advocacy work on behalf of local veterans.
That’s why the donation from Mercer Savings Bank meant so much to Bohle. It went directly toward serving the people who mean the most to her.
“I want to thank Mercer for this contribution,” Bohle said. “Thank you all so much for everything that you do to support nonprofits and organizations.”
How to Support Angels for Veterans
“Sometimes, I think that you know, this might be my last year of working so hard, “says Bohle. “And then I get a phone call (from a veteran) and I listen to their story and I’m inspired.”
If you want to support one of these inspiring local veterans, donate to Angels for Veterans. Checks can be sent to Angels for Veterans, PO Box 611, Celina, Ohio. Alternatively, you can make a donation on the site via Paypal.
Most importantly, says Bohle, is to spread the word about the work Angels for Veterans is doing by sharing articles like this one, or connecting with the organization via Facebook.