Statistics show Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects nearly 500,000 veterans.  For veterans with PTSD, most of their trauma comes from a war environment.  For many, the symptoms can lead to depression, flashbacks, nightmares, loneliness, isolation, and a lack of relational value with others, to name a few.

Although traditional therapies, such as medications, counseling, and more exist,  efforts to provide veterans with service animals have been making progress.  Congress is moving the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, H.R. 4305 forward.  If it becomes law, it will create a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) to help veterans who have post-deployment mental health disorders by teaming them up with dogs to train as service animals. The bill instructs V.A. to provide grants to nonprofit entities that teach veterans how to train service dogs. Once the veteran completes the program, if they wish, they can adopt their dogs for ongoing therapy.

Because working with service dogs shows the ability to enhance a veteran’s mental health, producer Josh Aronson took on the role of making a film to feature the benefits.  To Be of Service is a feature-length documentary about war veterans with PTSD who work with a service dog to help them regain their lives. Through beautiful cinematography and storytelling, he weaves in the positive emotions veterans experience when the dogs perform their tasks well, and how this can produce demonstrable social and psychological benefits for the veteran.

In producing the film, Aronson says “I saw that to forge a path to living at the best level we can, each of us has to find a modality of healing – be it therapy, meditation,  long-distance swimming, education, forgiveness, a horse, a service dog – to get on with our lives. As we learn in the film, service dogs offer a miraculous ray of hope in helping veterans come back to an independent, feeling life.”

Aronson’s film is one of the films chosen to be in the upcoming Sedona International Film Festival (Feb. 22-March 1).  It will also air in Phoenix at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 23, at the  FilmBar (https://www.thefilmbarphx.com/).  You can learn more about the film online at www.tobeofservicefilm.com.


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