Posted by: micheleaquinn | November 13, 2015

Be heard and receive a $15 gift card!

Be heard and receive a $15 gift card!

It’s that simple. This is a letter we recently received. Deadline is Monday, November 30, 2015.


My name is Gerri Victoria, and I’m currently assisting with a research study on Military Veterans in the Chicagoland area. The University of Southern California has partnered with Loyola University Chicago to work on a needs assessment of military veterans in the area. A big part of this study, being funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, is an online survey. The survey takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Respondents receive a $15 gift card in the mail for their participation.

We are looking to understand the demographics and specific needs of Veterans in the Chicagoland area. The final product will be an extensive report, which we will share with existing organizations to create or improve resources and services offered to Veterans. A similar study was conducted in LA and Orange counties in California with positive results. More information can be found at www.chicagovetstudy.orgVet_Flyer_8x10.

I hope you will help me spread the word about the survey to any veterans that you may know or come across. I’ve attached a flyer for the survey and would love to drop of a flyer and a few postcards in your office.

Thank you for your time!

Gerri Victoria
Research Assistant
Loyola School of Social Work
820 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL. 60611

For info:
Call the Program Director
Mariceli Serrano

Posted by: micheleaquinn | September 19, 2015

September is Suicide Prevention Month


September Is Suicide Prevention Month — starting Tuesday, Sept. 1, show your support for the Veterans Crisis Line and spread the word about The Power of 1. Go to to download materials — including posters, editable flyers, Web banners, and social media content — to share with your networks throughout the month. Join #ThePowerOf1 movement by visiting and stand by our Nation’s Veterans and Service members during Suicide Prevention Month and all year long.

One small act can make a difference. Show your support for Veterans and Service members who may be in crisis and spread the word about The Power of 1. Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.CL300x250Web_Banner0915-2

The responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances — from those coping with mental health issues that were never addressed to recent Veterans dealing with relationships or the transition back to civilian life.

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 1.86 million calls and made more than 50,000 lifesaving rescues. In 2009, the Veterans Crisis Line added an anonymous online chat service and has engaged in more than 240,000 chats. In November 2011, the Veterans Crisis Line introduced a text-messaging service to provide another way for Veterans to connect with confidential, round-the-clock support, and since then has responded to more than 39,000 texts.

The VA is working to make sure that all Veterans and their loved ones are aware of the Veterans Crisis Line. To reach as many Veterans as possible, the VA is coordinating with communities and partner groups nationwide — including community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, and local health care providers — to let Veterans and their loved ones know that support is available whenever, if ever, they need it.

Act Now
Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone
Start a confidential online chat session at
Send a text message to 838255 to connect to a VA responder
Take a self-check quiz at
If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, find a facility near you
Visit if you are Active Duty, Reserve, or Guard
Connect through chat, text, or TTY if you are deaf or hard of hearing

Learn Now
Identify the Warning Signs
Concerned About a Veteran? You Can Help
Suicide and Crisis Resources
About the Veterans Crisis Line

Source: This article was copied in full from in an effort to help our veterans and their families and friends.

Posted by: andreazastrow | July 31, 2015

PTSD: Thinking Outside of the Box

As previously discussed on this page, 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. A large culprit for returning service members is post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Hopefully it has been made clear by now that our organization, Pets For Vets, seeks to place homeless animals with veterans suffering from PTSD. If you or someone you know might benefit from our services, please reach out to us. However, as with nearly any subject, there is often more than one solution. An influx of research focused on understanding and treating PTSD is revealing some truly fascinating options.Traditional options include one-on-one therapy sessions, support groups, and doctor prescribed medications. Such options are exceedingly helpful for managing PTSD; but as research on this topic continues to grow, we are seeing some alternative therapies with great promise. Discuss any treatment and/or therapy options with a doctor before beginning a specific regimen.

In a recently published Huffington Post article, the author refers to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry which explores the idea of attention control therapy, “in which a computer task helps the user shift their focus away from a scary image to an assignment”. This research, being performed at Tel Aviv University, aims to neutralize “scary” images by repeatedly performing tasks after being shown these images. Computer based therapy, such as this one, has the potential to be exceptionally far reaching providing that the research proves successful. (The article can be found here.)

Many yoga enthusiasts swear by yoga’s ability to help manage a variety of ailments from back pain to headaches to anxiety. Using the breath as a tool to calm the body and mind, a number of yoga organizations have been reaching out to veterans and their families as they collectively deal with the hardships of PTSD. Marines Sgt. Hugo Patrocinio told a reporter with the Miami Herald, “There is no magic pill that can erase your past or what you have seen but the practice helps me to cope. Now I am not afraid to go to sleep”. As exercise is often touted as a great management technique for PTSD, a form of exercise that also promotes peace and calm may be highly effective. (Check out the veteran focused yoga groups here.)

A form of home therapy recommended for a variety of anxiety issues is something referred to as “grounding techniques”. The idea with grounding is leading the mind away from triggers. By focusing on tactile elements, the present moment, or something as simple as reciting the alphabet, the goal is bring the mind back to a neutral state hoping to minimize or eliminate an anxiety attack. One of the most appealing aspects of grounding techniques is that they can be done anywhere, with no special equipment, and at no cost. (Find additional techniques here.)

Last but certainly not least is art therapy. The art therapy program at Walter Reed Medical Center has shown to be a creative outlet where those suffering from PTSD can express their feelings in a healthy way. Similar to grounding techniques, art therapy is often a way for many anxiety sufferers to decompress. Take a look at some of the artwork done by the veterans, it is quite interesting to see a common thread between them all. The photos can be found here.

If you or someone you know are suffering from PTSD, please know that you are not alone and that you have options. Should you feel frightened or feel as though you may be in harm’s way, please seek immediate medical attention or call Veteran’s Crisis Line (1800-273-8255 and Press 1).

Posted by: andreazastrow | May 13, 2015

Military Appreciation Month: Giving Back

Military Appreciation Month

I think we can all agree that every month should be Military Appreciation Month, but officially, it’s the month of May. In honor of this awareness month, we’re looking into the ways that we can give back to our active military and their families, too. A little research will uncover a wealth of opportunities to lend a hand. There are always ways to get involved, here are a few!

Operation Showers of Appreciation (OSOAmil)

Established in 2006, OSOAmil honors military, veterans, reserves, wounded warriors, first responders, and their families by hosting and cohosting large scale baby showers. In addition to baby showers, they are also involved in organizing baby care packages, diaper programs, and events honoring blue and gold star military families. We can get involved by donating items, making a monetary donation, becoming a shower host, assisting with fundraising efforts and community events, among others.

Operation Write Home:

Get the kids involved! What better way to teach younger generations to show gratitude than to write thank you notes to the men and women who so deserve it. Operation Write Home seeks to send letters of encouragement to our deployed heroes. Looking to get started? Host a card signing event, have the kids draw a picture or color in an AnyHero coloring page, or just write a letter yourself! Go to operation Write Home’s website for letter writing guidelines, monetary donation opportunities, an online shop, and more. Our soldiers would surely appreciate it!

Operation Gratitude:

From sleep away camp to college, everyone loves a care package. Imagine how much it would mean to a soldier to receive one. The little things we take for granted are the items our troops need most. Operation Gratitude sends care packages and letters to our deployed troops. Inside care packages are snacks, entertainment, hygiene products, handmade items, and letters all meant to lift spirits and make life a little easier. We can get involved by organizing a collections drive, donating letters, knitting/crocheting scarves, give a monetary donation, or offer your business services. Check them out online to get started


Of course there are many wonderful organizations to get involved with, but random acts of kindness will always be a great way to thank someone for their service. Here are a few simple ways to show our service men and women our gratitude

  • Pay for a meal or send over dessert for a military member dining in the same restaurant as you
  • Reach out to the spouse of a military member
  • Donate unused airline miles
  • Lay flowers at a military cemetery
  • Shake the hand of a military member or veteran
  • Just say “thank you”!

A little kindness goes a long way. Let’s pay it forward, friends!

Posted by: andreazastrow | April 17, 2015

Making the Leap: Civilian Careers for Veterans

The job market can be tough for any of us; but our veterans face a different set of challenges than civilians. After returning from service, where military men and women have obtained valuable skill sets, many face the obstacle of limited civilian work experience. Despite having qualities that will enable these veterans to be great leaders in the work force, the unemployment rate for veterans remains too high. Many private sector positions do not recognize the ways in which military experience can carry into the civilian work force, but the number of resources continues to grow.

Thankfully, there are many companies that recognize the importance of military skill sets and have made efforts to give back to the men and women who have given so much for us. In addition, the network of veterans helping veterans produces new opportunities every day. The importance of employment for veterans is vital. Of course everyone wants to feel a part of the work force, everyone wants to make money; but for returning vets, routine is so important. One of the best ways alleviate the stress of transition from military to civilian life, is getting back to “normal”. By reducing stress levels, hopefully we can begin to see a reduction in the number of suicides among veterans and find positive ways to deal with PTSD.

Listed below are a few resources for veterans looking to begin a new career:

Military Connection:

Military Connection is an online directory full of additional resources for veterans and their families. They work to match veteran job seekers with an employer that understands the value of their skills and qualities. This organization will also help returning veterans find veteran friendly colleges, universities, and vocational colleges for anyone looking to get involved in a higher education program.


Veteran and Military Business owners Association seeks to ensure the development, growth and prosperity of Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners of all sizes worldwide”. VAMBOA is a great resource for job seeking veterans as it free to join, features potential business partners for companies looking to get involved, business coaching, loan information, and certification resources. The organization also features a newsletter and blog to keep its’ members well informed about new opportunities.

Get My Vet A Job:

The mission statement at Get My Vet A Job is simple: employment solutions. This organization seeks to assist veterans in streamlining the job search process. The website features branch specific job opportunities, live chat website assistance, career workshops, and job fairs for veterans, military spouses, and transitioning military.

(image featured from Career Bliss)

Posted by: andreazastrow | March 25, 2015

PTSD and TBI Resources

Welcome back to the Pets for Vets Chicagoland blog!

We hope that this blog will serve as an additional resource to our veterans who have given so much. Though it is a heavy topic to discuss, veteran suicide is an exceptionally important issue to us. The month of March is both Brain Injury Awareness Month and Self Harm Awareness Month, two problems that often go hand-in-hand for our veterans. Many soldiers return from their service with physical scars; but it is those wounds that we don’t see that can be the most dangerous. Veteran suicide occurs at an alarming rate with “roughly 22 former servicemen and women committing suicide every day”. (Nicks, Denver. “Report: suicide Rate Soars Among Young Vets.” Time. Time, 10 Jan. 2014.) Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include headaches, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and depression. These symptoms are disruptive and can become dangerous. Thankfully, there are a host of resources that can keep those who are suffering safe.

Here are our top five:

Veteran’s Crisis Line (1800-273-8255 and Press 1): A branch of the Suicide Preventions Lifeline provides confidential help for veterans and their families. Those looking to get in touch with this organization may call, text, or chat online. There is even an additional option for those who may be deaf or hard of hearing.

U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs: The VA has compiled an extensive list of resources, including those with PTSD and TBI outreach programs. This website also features a hospital locator, medical center locator, and list of Vet Centers.

Real Warriors: This group features a wealth of information about PTSD and how to cope with it. Real Warriors includes sections about managing anxiety disorders, relaxations techniques, stress management, and cognitive rehabilitation. Also included on the website are outreach centers and branch specific resources.

Healing Heroes Network: Those who seek the help of Healing Heroes benefit from financial assistance that is used for quality care upon their return from active duty, after being injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Part of their work includes a program called Tablets for Heroes, which helps to keep those suffering from PTSD and TBIs organized, following a schedule, and connected to cognitive assistance.

Pets for Vets: Our goal is to help heal the emotional wounds of military veterans by pairing them with a shelter animal that is specially selected to match his or her personality. Professional animal trainers rehabilitate the animals and teach them good manners to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle. Training can also include desensitization to wheel chairs or crutches as well as recognizing panic or anxiety disorder behaviors.

Most importantly, if you are feeling alone and have thoughts of harming yourself, please seek the help of a doctor or mental health professional, or call the suicide prevention hotline!

Posted by: micheleaquinn | May 25, 2014

New Chapter in Chicago

Thanks to everyone who has been following this blog. I have been remiss in updating the blog. There have been a few changes to your local Pets for Vets Chapter. We have reorganized as Pets for Vets Chicagoland covering 8 counties and have a new Facebook page at Please “like” this new page so you can follow our progress with matching rescued pets with deserving vets.

Volunteers may go to to sign up for events.

Our new webpage can be found at

For more information, please use this contact form. Thank you.

Posted by: micheleaquinn | November 10, 2013

What is a Veteran?

What is a Veteran?

I heard this on WGN 720 Radio this morning and thought that it would be fitting to post it here as a reminder for Veterans’ Day on Monday, November 11. Click on the link below to hear it read by Dean Richards.

Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune

Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg – or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can’t tell a vet just by looking.

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She – or he – is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another – or didn’t come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat – but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade – riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies
unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket – palsied now and aggravatingly slow – who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, “THANK YOU“.

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the
freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag.”

Father Denis Edward O’Brien/USMC

Posted by: micheleaquinn | August 19, 2013

Pets For Vets Movie

This video was created for the national organization of Pets for Vets. It is almost 6 minutes long but it fully explains the mission and purpose of Pets For Vets Chicago Chapter and is well worth your time. Thank you for viewing.

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