PALM DESERT, Calif. - For Andy Gladstein and his wife Marylynn, an anniversary gift turned into a nonprofit dedicated to helping others.
"It got started in Coronado, about 3 1/2 years ago, in a Verizon store. I met a Navy Seal, who was a Navy Cross Winner, talking about what to get my wife for an anniversary present. And he said 'Get her a dog. Have it trained for a soldier or a service man or woman who has lost his or her limbs fighting the war on terror,'" Andy Gladstein said.
Service members hold a special place in Marylynn's heart because her father was a veteran.
"Having grown up as a military brat, as they say, growing up for most of my life in the military, I have a very special appreciation for soldiers and for what they do," Marylynn Gladstein said.
After giving that first veteran a dog, Andy realized he wanted to do more. To this date Dogs for Our Brave has placed 14 dogs with service men and women at no cost.
"We don't want to put them in the position of do I put food on the table or do I feed my dog? Do I pay my rent or do I take my pet to the vet? So we came up with a program where we provide food for life, pharmaceuticals for life, and all their veterinary care," Andy Gladstein said.
The dogs are trained extensively so they're ready to serve their partner.
"It's six to eight months. These dogs are not pets. When they have the vest on they're working dogs. When the service person takes the vest off at night they throw the ball with them, they play, they roll around. When the vest goes on they're working," Andy Gladstein said.
The training and lifelong care doesn't come cheap. But with the help of the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation the organization has $25,000 to work with.
"It will help us train dogs. It will help us find other service people here in the valley that may need help. It's a myriad of things it will help us do. But it just helps further the cause of helping these really needy veterans," Andy Gladstein said.
The organization fights for these veterans the way they fought for us.