Most of you know I was involved in a fierce firefight in Kharma, Iraq while deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 that almost cost me my life. I was involved in over fifty real world operations throughout my military career and many of those came with incredibly close calls. Anyone who has endured the fires of combat and come home, brings these moments home with them. So now like many combat veterans; I don’t like crowds. I don’t like people who surprise me. Unexpected loud noises can jar me. I always want to sit with my back to a wall and I piss at an angle at a urinal so I can keep watch on the people around me. I view the world through the lens of someone constantly surveying for impending danger.
Over the last several years I have tried to help other combat wounded warriors, and I have constantly been motivated and inspired by those who suffered far more severe injuries than I did. It has been cathartic and healing and along the way I have also met amazing people and organizations. One of these organizations was service dog organization, called the Battle Buddy Foundation started by a wounded Marine, Kenny Bass. Kenny once had PTSD so bad, he was unwilling to leave his house yet with the help of an amazing service companion, Atlas the Wonder Dog (who is both smart as he is beautiful) Kenny began a journey back to the real world of being out among so many of the American citizens he was willing to fight for. Now many people don’t know but I love dogs. Especially German Shepherds. I was interested in our dog program after I was wounded but was not eligible for it (apparently, officers need a desk, not a dog….) I met Kenny over two years ago as we were trying to expand our programs and connect other wounded warriors to service dogs. Kenny tried to convince me to think about getting one for myself, and I kept telling him, no, it should go to the guys who really need it. My wife (who is significantly smarter than I am) kept trying to convince me to get a service dog, and told Kenny about the moments of concern and apprehension I still carried, especially when on the road. So after a year of being convinced by both Kenny and my wife, I finally agreed to get a service dog. Kenny knew with all my traveling it would have to be a dog with a great disposition that could handle just about anything. So late last year, Kenny called me and said I think we have your dog. He is doing really well in training and doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything. He said he is a beautiful male German shepherd with a lot of personality and great coloring. He then asked me what I wanted to name him. It immediately popped into my head, the name of my service dog, “Kharma”. Kharma Iraq, was the location of my fierce firefight and Kharma my future dog would help me overcome those moments when the scars of war manifested in my mind. The first picture I saw of Kharma, sealed the deal. I saw this incredibly good looking German Shepherd with an intensely intelligent look in his eyes and a solid black muzzle that reminded me of Bane’s mask from Batman. In that moment, I decided his full name would have to be Kharma Bane Redman. Over the next several months I would receive pictures and updates on his training and progress.
On March 11th, 2016 I flew to Kalamazoo Michigan to meet Kharma for the first time. Late on a Friday night, I watched as Kharma walked into the lobby of the hotel, checking everything out, ears alert, eyes constantly watching, surveying the room, he missed nothing. I knew this was the dog for me. Within minutes we said hello, shook paws, and the bond was forged. The next day, we began training and I really began to look forward to having Kharma with me on all my travels. Last week, I was in New York in Times Square. The mob of people was massive and I felt that apprehension danger demon climb up my back. I look forward to the future when I will have Kharma with me in those moments. I know so many other veterans who carry the invisible wounds of war are having life changing results from the help of their service dog. I’m excited to add my name to that roster. Kharma continues to train. I will train with him a couple more times but expect him to be ready sometime this summer. I look forward to introducing him to many of you, but more than anything, I look forward to having some Good Kharma.