San Diego Veterans Magazine August 2022

Page 22

A Marine’s Best Friend

HELPING PAWS

By Hannah Jaime

WHAT WE DO:

Sgt. Terrance O’Neil (Ret.) knew he would have to say goodbye to his 16-year-old best friend some day, but he was not prepared to do so a few months ago.

All too often, troops who are willing to pay the ultimate price cannot afford unexpected veterinary bills.We help keep military families united with their pets by providing low and no-cost veterinary care for service members and veterans in need. Without us, a lot of southern California vets would face the heartbreaking decision of premature relinquishment, or worse yet, economic euthanasia. Since 2013, our 501(c) (3) has helped more than 2,680 military pets. Fundraising is an ongoing battle because veterinary bills add up fast. WE’VE WAITED TWO YEARS FOR THIS:

His marriage was in disrepair, but Patrick provided solace during the divorce. Then, a heartsick O’Neil learned he could lose his service dog too. Cancer threatened to rip Patrick away if a mammary tumor was not removed immediately. “He’s my best friend and has been with me through all the ups and downs,” the Marine Corps veteran explained. He has withstood a lot. O’Neil holds his head high, but his heart, body and mind are riddled with the lingering horrors of war. The brave Marine dauntlessly invaded Iraq in 2004 and later survived an IED blast. It was one of three combat tours he endured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The courageous warrior also completed 1,261 sea service days. He was forced to medically separate in 2011, and his loyal dog has been his shadow ever since. “He alerts me to the onset of extreme migraines, among other tasks,” he explained. “I would do anything for him.” Being unable to help Patrick was gut-wrenching. Disabilities prevent O’Neil from working, so he could not afford the $2,800 procedure. The once unstoppable Marine felt helpless because he could not save his best friend, so he turned to Helping Paws. We are a small nonprofit with a staff of one, and it was a large amount for us to take on. 22 WWW.SanDiegoVeteransMagazine.com / AUGUST 2022

COVID-19 took a toll on our charity. We lost key supporters, and our annual fundraiser was canceled. After a two-year wait, we can come together in person aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Helping Paws’ 7th Annual Fundraiser will be September 10, 2022 at San Onofre’s Historic Beach Club. The oceanfront ballroom offers stunning views of the Pacific. Guests will enjoy dinner, drinks and a live auction. Please join us! Foundation information availble at the following links: www.sandiegogives.org/Helpingpawsfoundation https://paybee.io/hybrid-event/helpingpaws/1 SAN DIEGO GIVES: Two days prior is another reason to celebrate. Helping Paws is among 327 local nonprofits taking part in an effort to #givelocal. On Sept. 8, our community will unite for the second annual San Diego Gives. The 24 hours of philanthropy will shine a light on the tremendous work local nonprofits are doing. We are proud to be one of the 14 organizations behind this effort to strengthen San Diego. Unity can be a powerful tool in our county’s arsenal. Together, we can deploy compassion in a way that makes a difference for military families in need. When you donate to Helping Paws, you are helping veterans and animals; that’s 1 donation supporting 2 causes! THE NEED: San Diego is home to the world’s largest military population. While pets are part of the family, the military does not cover veterinary care.