Port Hueneme—VFW 3936 put its best foot forward for its Veterans on Saturday, April 13, as the Post hosted Taco Day and held a meet-and-greet with Next Step Service Dogs.

THAT gave the attendees the opportunity to enjoy a nice lunch and interact with the Dogs who stole the show.

VFW Auxiliary Treasurer Jeanette Beck said service dogs Tillman and T-Challa and their handlers were stopping by to greet the public.

“We’ve been doing this for at least a decade,” she said. “They use the money we raise today to help train the service dogs. We like our Veterans and our First Responders. The money goes to service animals for First Responders and our Veterans with PTSD.”

She said VFW 3935 has a longstanding relationship with Next Step.

“When the Post recommended them, I researched them and talked to them, and I really like them,” she said.

Veterans who’ve never been to VFW Post 3935 will find many support services and camaraderie with fellow Veterans, she said, who’ve shared similar Military experiences, making them a special family.

“The Auxiliary supports the Post and does the fundraisers,” Beck said.

Anthony Torres from Next Step Service Dogs said they’re a service organization that helps Veterans and First Responder Teams “living with visible and invisible injuries including PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries with the placement of custom-trained service dogs.”

He said every person who comes to Next Step Service Dogs has different needs, and Gina, the training coordinator, can tailor the Dog’s training to that individual person.

“I’ve been part of the program since 2021, and Tillman is my own service Dog,” Torres said. “I met him when he was about eight months old, and he has made a major change in my life.”

Torres served in the Marine Corps from 2014 to 2020 and was stationed in San Diego.

“I didn’t have any deployments myself, but my experiences were different,” he said.

Caring for and feeding service Dogs from birth throughout their lives is a constant struggle for funding, and he said none of the teams have paid a dime to train the Dogs because it’s donation-based.

“Depending on the Dog’s needs and the training, they range in the 10s of thousands of dollars to train them,” he said. “Then there’s the care and maintenance for their healthcare. It’s a continuous need.”

He said each organization trains its Service Dog differently.

“At Next Step Service Dogs, we get donations from Puppy Raisers and Guide Dogs for the Blind,” he said. “Some of these Dogs come readily trained, and others are trained from birth. It’s a continuous process.”

He said Tillman is a Field Golden Retriever, and the field is where his red color comes from.

“He and his brothers are actually Service Dogs as well, so I know three of his brothers here support other Veterans,” Torres said. “He’s one of a kind, for sure. His Mother is a Facility Dog at the hospitals in Idaho, so it definitely runs in the family.”

He praised the support VFW Post 3935 shows to Next Step Service Dogs, and they return to the Post to show the investment they put into the organization.

“The respect, time, and the acknowledgment of people who come here to support us pays dividends,” he said.

Tillman recognizes when Torres is experiencing the effects of PTSD and says his Service Dog “grounds him.”

“He’s trained to get on me and do a two-touch sensation where he’s putting his body weight on me to make me realize where I am and bring me back to the present,” Torres said. “Because of Tillman, I’ve been able to get back into society and be able to communicate and socialize with people.”

Girlfriend Hailey Haresh said she’s enormously proud of Torres.

“We’ll go out as a family,” she said. “I think it’s important to know that even when (Tillman’s) Vest is off, he’s never a pet. It’s great having him in the family.”

Torres said getting into a relationship is always a little difficult.

“The relationship between Tillman and me is a bit critical, and he can’t be treated like a normal Dog,” Torres said. “There is some strictness that goes along with his training. The last thing we would want is for him to grow a bigger bond with anybody else. It defeats the purpose of him being able to focus on me.”

Before the fundraiser, he made sure to avoid filling up on any snacks.

“I’ve been looking forward to these tacos for some time,” he said.

Ken McAtee supports the Next Step fundraiser and noted that he is a regular for Friday night karaoke.

“I love the atmosphere and the people,” he said. “It’s very friendly.”

Lifetime Member Nancy McAtee said she’s been going to the VFW since she retired from Federal Service.

“Everybody is friendly, and they have an excellent lunch program,” she said. “I just enjoy it.”

Beck said VFW Post 3935 has plenty of activities to fill up soldiers’ lives with fun.

“We have Sunday Music Day,” she said.

For all the latest infor­mation, visit vfw3935.org.

Original story posted here.