Buddies On and Off the Field
Wounded Veteran Assistance Dog Teams Compete in
2016 Invictus Games
ORLANDO, FL – Stefan LeRoy (US Army Ret.) and Gabe Martinez
(US Marines Ret.) are competing in the 2016 Invictus Games in Florida. Both veterans
are bilateral amputees as a result of injuries sustained during their military
service. They have battle buddies both on and off the field, with four legs and
Off the field, LeRoy works with Canine Companions for Independence
Service Dog Knoxville, and Martinez with Service Dog Wonka. Both canines assist
them in daily activities to enhance their independence, retrieving prostheses
and opening doors. Knoxville and Wonka have been trained in 40 commands
including turning on lights, carrying items and retrieving items such as credit
cards or assistive devices. Their injuries haven’t held them back and both
veterans will both be competing in track and field events this week. In addition, LeRoy, 25, will be participating
in cycling, swimming and indoor rowing at the games.
“Wonka is a Marine dog, he’s all about mission accomplishment” says
Martinez, 27, from Colorado. “Once you have a good strong partnership with an
assistance dog like Wonka, everything changes. I was injured on Thanksgiving
and walking by February, but I still need Wonka to help.”
The Invictus Games run May 8-12 in Orlando, Florida and bring together
wounded service members from 15 countries, including the United States, Canada
and the United Kingdom. The Paralympic-style games feature athletes competing
in more than 10 events. Service Dog Knoxville will be cheering on LeRoy from
LeRoy lost both his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive
device while he was carrying an injured soldier to a medevac helicopter. Since
receiving Knoxville, LeRoy has less to worry about with and without his
prostheses. “It’s amazing how much he has impacted my life, “LeRoy says.
“Knoxville has impacted the lives of everyone he meets, and it’s wonderful to
have his help and support.”
For over 40 years, Canine Companions for
Independence has been enhancing the
lives of people with disabilities by training and placing more than 5,000 assistance
dogs with program graduates, including over 140 dogs with wounded military
veterans and more than 1,500 dogs with children, entirely free of charge.
About Canine Companions for
Canine Companions for Independence provides
highly-trained assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities.
Established in 1975, Canine Companions has six regional training centers across
the country. Canine Companions is recognized worldwide for the excellence of
its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs
and people. For more information, visit www.cci.org or call 1-800-572-BARK.