Jacksonville area organizations receive grant money to support local veterans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As part of this year’s Celebration of Valor, the Jags team and the City of Jacksonville’s Military Affairs & Veterans Department distributed grant money to several local organizations that are helping our military service members and veterans.

K9s For Warriors, which provides service dogs for veterans, and Operation New Uniform, which helps veterans transition back into the workforce, both received $5,000.

“What this city is helping us do is create hope for the veterans, for our warriors,” said Greg Wells, Manager of programs for K9s For Warriors.

“It’s helping veterans,” added Sean Stull, the Director of Training and Transition at Operation New Uniform. “It’s making sure no veteran struggles the way I did.”

Stull retired from the Navy two years ago and still remembers how disorienting it was. “Once you take that uniform off, it’s hard to figure out who you were,” he recalled.

“I struggled a little bit trying to figure out where I fit.”

He now guides other veterans, in hopes of using this money to expand. “[Operation New Uniform wants] to help more veterans, to spread our reach further,” he explained.

Meanwhile, this grant money will support the construction of a mega-kennel at K9s For Warriors, which will allow the organization to more than double the amount of service dogs that will be paired with veterans, and decrease wait times.

Instead of having to wait up to five years for a service dog, veterans will now wait about a year.

“What we need to do is focus on helping the warrior right now,” Wells emphasized. He served in the U.S. Army for eight years and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. “I got a service dog and immediately I knew I was going to be ok. I love this dog.”

He’s been paired up with his service dog Utah for almost six years.

These veterans want others to like them to know, there is a lot of support available out there, and all they have to do is reach out.

“There is a light. There is hope,” Stull emphasized. “You do have value, you don’t have to just settle.”