Pet Connections

Team Valor – Puppies on a Mission

Army Veteran Omar Brooks and his wife Nicole Malesic began fostering dogs after their dog Lotus passed away.  Omar saw very quickly how working with dogs helped his mood and PTSD.  He wanted fellow veterans to feel the way he felt following his five years of service in the Army, where he was deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and completed a tour in Iraq.  Soon after he realized how he could help, he and Nicole formed PA VetPets, a non-profit organization out of Washington, PA to create awareness and raise money to release grants to assist veterans and first responders suffering from work related trauma.   Rescuing as many dogs from shelters as possible, they also select dogs for training that are offspring of current therapy or service dogs.  Working with therapy and service dog organizations, along with the Department of Veteran Affairs, they provide these dogs to as many veterans as possible in and around Pittsburgh.

Valor is the son of two current service dogs (his father’s handler was wounded during a deployment to Iraq).   He is the first of several pups to be trained as therapy dogs to comprise Team Valor.  Team Valor represents PA VetPets’ pursuit to provide more therapy dogs for veterans and first responders in need of PTSD recovery help.  Valor and his teammates will provide emotional support for veterans at local veterans’ and children’s hospitals and homes, and will attend events promoting their services. Training these dogs takes time and money and is an intensive process. Requests come in frequently to help veterans who have been on waiting lists for two years or longer.  PA VetPets has a goal to grow their program so that they can one day reduce the number of people on waiting lists by assisting them with hands-on training locally.  They also run a program called Warrier Wellness (think AA with dogs) to offer goal setting, nutrition advice and alternative therapies.

The American Legion’s overall mission is to enhance the well-being of America’s veterans, their families, the military, and communities through devotion to mutual helpfulness.  The American Legion’s vision statement is “The American Legion: Veterans Strengthening America”.  American Legion Riders Chapter 701 is proud to implement this vision.  On July 22, 2023, they will be hosting their annual ride to support PA VetPets and local veterans, hoping to provide a lifetime of training for Team Valor, which could amount to a cost of more than $10,000 per pup.  The ride will be approximately two hours, including a comfort stop at the half-way point and a police escort (subject to availability).  

Join the White Oak Legion Riders on July 22nd to ride for Team Valor!  All riders, passengers and non-riders are welcome.  Registration is $20 per person and includes a continental breakfast prior to the ride and a follow up luncheon, including free soft drinks and water.  There will be a cash bar, a 50/50 raffle, an American Auction, and other games of chance.  If you don’t ride, please join us for the after party and take the opportunity to meet members of Team Valor and support local veterans.  In the event of severe weather, the luncheon and all planned games and festivities will still be held.  All proceeds of the ride will be donated to PA VetPets and veterans.   Members of Team Valor will be on hand at 1:00 pm, so come shake a hand (or a paw) of this wonderful new team!

Pre-registration is suggested.  $20 per person can be sent to American Legion Post 701, Attn: Riders Treasurer, 2813 Capitol Street, White Oak, PA  15131.  There will also be a pre-registration table at the legion beginning at 9:00 am the day of the ride.  Kickstands up will be at 10:00 am and lunch will be served at approximately 1:00 pm following the ride. If you are unable to attend the ride, or are from out of town, please consider a donation to the American Legion Riders Chapter 701 Charity Event Go Fund Me online forum:  https://gofund.me/4d1552db

If one team of puppies can make a difference in the lives of our local veterans, let’s come together to help Valor and the rest of his team succeed in their mission – to enhance the well-being of fellow brother and sister veterans.  Be a part of Legion 701 Riders’ mission of hope and join them on July 22nd at 10:00 am to ride for Team Valor!

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