By Laura Levitt and Monica Yantosh
Three tours in Iraq left Jim Stanek with a traumatic brain injury and chronic severe post traumatic stress disorder, and his transition back to the states wasn’t easy.
“I didn’t want to socialize, didn’t want to go to public,” Stanek said. “I was having a hard time communicating with family members.”
Stanek was put on medication and went to therapy, but he struggled to live a normal life.
“I had an empty tool bag and I needed tools to help me get through civilian life,” he said.
Stanek tried different “tools” to manage his PTSD, but struggled to find one that worked. Then his wife found a stray dog on the side of the highway and gave her a home. At first she was a just a pet, but Stanek realized that the dog was helping him.
“Life with Sarge is not hell,” he said. “It’s like hell light. I’ve still got my issues with crowds, [but] Sarge helps me navigate those.”
Stanek and his wife started Paws and Stripes, an organization that pairs dogs with service men who have PTSD.
“Paws and Stripes has trainers contracted through our program, who have service dogs themselves, for their disabilities, and [we have] found a way that we can train rescue dogs,” Stanek said.
Stanek and Sarge came to campus this weekend to play in a charity softball game organized by Elon’s Team Hero, an organization that works to support military men and women. The softball game’s goal was to raise money for Paws and Stripes.
Stanek is thankful for Team Hero’s help and thinks everyone can learn a lesson from the organization’s work.
“Everyone needs something to do [and] Team Hero is an action,” Stanek said. “Don’t sit with the blinds closed. Open up the blinds and let the sun in.”
Team Hero raised more than $2,000 for Paws and Stripes.