By ANNE C. HEYMEN
Every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide, John R, “Jack” Capra, a Navy veteran, told members of the Pilot Club of St. Augustine as guest speaker for the club’s November program meeting. “Our organization helps dogs help veterans.”
Capra, appointed to the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate Generals Corps in September 1990, was referring to the K9s for Warriors organization, an organization described on its Web site as “dedicated to providing service canines to veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability, traumatic brain injury and/or sexual trauma as a result of military service post 9/11.”
With his canine, Rocco, a standard-sized poodle at his side, Capra, who is dealing with traumatic brain injury, told the gathering he was the eighth person to graduate from the K9 group. He and Rocco have been together since 2011. “It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “It changed my life.” Serving in a variety of capacities in the Navy, Capra was re-called to active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and, in March 2004, was wounded in Bastra, Iraq . Insurgents had detonated a radio-controlled explosive device under his convoy.
A year later, Capra, who was awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon after the 2004 injury, was mobilized to active duty for a third time for Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom. The next year, he was mobilized – for a fourth time – this time in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, (JTF-GTMO) Cuba. He served as deputy director, Staff Judge Advocate and then as the executive assistant to the JTF Commander.
“Every time I came home” from one of those deployments, he told his audience, “I found myself more comfortable over there. You can’t imagine it over there,” he continued. “Everything is a threat – people shouting at us all the time.”
K9s for Warriors is truly a life saver, Capra emphasized. It was founded by northeast Florida resident Shari Duval, who now serves as president. Her son, a veteran K9 police officer, worked as a contractor for the Army, completing two tours in Iraq and returning home with PTSD. As she explains in the K9s for Warriors Web site: “After two years of research on canine assistance for PTSD, we decided the best way we could help these deserving warriors was to start a non-profit organization to train and give service canines to assist our warriors’ efforts to return to civilian life with dignity and independence.”
The K9s for Warriors training facility is located in Ponte Vedra with a 17,000 square foot headquarters which provides a training ground for the Warriors and their service dogs. Veterans come from all over the world Capra and his wife, Sandi, told the gathering – Washington, Germany. Since there is such a demand there is a waiting list. Everything is 100 percent free. Cost to train a service dog says Capra, is about $15,000. K9s for Warriors dogs are 45 pounds or larger.
For further information on the organization call 904-686-1956. The address is114 Camp K9 Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. 32081.K9s for Warriors is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Tadzia Alexander, who heads the patriotism area for the club, introduced the speaker Nov. 16 and presented a variety of gifts to Capra and his wife, as well as Rocco, who received a red, white and blue scarf.