As an American bombardier in World War II, Irwin Stovroff has seen it all and continues to give back to our wounded warriors.
In the early 1940s, he volunteered as a bombardier in the 8th Air Force in England, served for four years in WWII and was a Jewish POW in the Nazi camps. He flew 35 missions throughout his time, risking his life for his country, while flying deep into enemy territory.
"I was fortunate to complete my combat experience in spite of being shot down on my 35th mission and being a POW in Germany," Irwin said. "I still returned home with eyes, limbs, brains and the ability to go forward to be educated, have a family and enjoy retirement. My service was from 1942-1945. I realize others were not so lucky, and I want to do all I can to help those less fortunate."
With a mission of helping his fellow veterans, Irwin founded a not-for-profit called Vets Helping Heroes.
The organization was created in 2007 to solicit and provide funds to qualified training facilities, so that they may provide assistance dogs and training to veterans and active-duty military personnel who have been wounded in the post 9/11 conflicts.
With the rising need for assistance dogs, Vets Helping Heroes has raised close to 3 million dollars and provided more than 60 assistance dogs to our heroes in need. Service dogs funded by Vets Helping Heroes can be trained to detect the onset of seizures, prevent oncoming panic attacks, and call for help in case of an emergency.
Meanwhile, the affect on post-traumatic stress is now being studied, but veterans, as well as their families, say they owe their lives to their service dogs.
"It's not what I learned, but what I accomplished," he says. "I am proud to have served my country and continue to do so."
The process hasn't always been easy and inexpensive, but Irwin was persistent to find a way to make it work.
"In 2007, I was informed that a disabled vet in need of a service dog had to rely on private donations, as the government had no appropriations for money for this problem," Stovroff said. "The process costs between $10,000 and $60,000 per dog, a price tag that a veteran coming home from fighting abroad simply cannot afford. This was my motivation to start Vets Helping Heroes."
With that experience in mind, Irwin decided to start Vets Helping Heroes, with a focus of helping veterans in need all over the country.
"We strive for excellence at our task," he said.
The programs the organization sponsors have been thoroughly evaluated, making sure they are sponsoring the absolute best quality dogs to our nation's heroes.
In addition, they work to educate the public on the importance of the great need for what we do and of the difference between top-notch, properly accredited training programs and those that aren't.
Irwin said there are no words to describe the large amount of positive feedback the organization has received.
"The public has been wonderful to me and to everyone at Vets Helping Heroes," he said. "So many people are out there helping us get the word out, sending their best wishes for our continued success, and of course donating the much needed money required to continue our mission."
Irwin hopes the future holds a time when there are no more waiting lists and all our nations heroes who qualify and would benefit from an assistance dog are never without one.
To learn more about Vets Helping Heroes you can visit their website: www.vetshelpingheroes.com