Vietnam veteran finds love of pet can heal war wounds - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Vietnam veteran finds love of pet can heal war wounds

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Vietnam veteran with PTSD is finally feeling better about his life thanks to a new program in Wisconsin. He found the love of a pet can heal even war wounds.

When Bill Stapel came home from Vietnam, he and a lot of other solders didn't get a hero's welcome. That eventually led to some serious depression and feelings he had done something wrong. But over the last month, he's started to heal, all because of his little "buddy."

For Bill and his new dog Buddy, the bond they share is like coming home. "Buddy has kind of become my soul mate and he's given me a reason to, just taking care of him."

He says coming home from the war was difficult. "When we came back we were baby killers."

But he dealt with his and other service members' "unpopularity." It wasn't until a massive car accident years later that the war came rushing back. Bill says, "The anxiety started after I was involved in that I-43 accident where 10 people died."

That accident is the deadliest in Wisconsin history. Fifty vehicles involved. Ten people dead and 36 hurt. Bill saved four people. "Things started exploding then a windshield wiper and battery parts flew by me and that started the nightmares of dodging shrapnel in Vietnam."

Bill's anxiety got so bad he considered suicide. But instead, he called Pets for Vets for help. He was paired with Buddy June 1st.

Pets for Vets Wisconsin Executive Director Becky Peterson says, I think Buddy knew he was home. He didn't even make any move to go he just sat with Bill when we left and it was like he knew he was home."

Bill says he's happy to be responsible for Buddy and take him on walks or play with him. "When I do my exercises at home, my stretching exercises he likes to get in my hair and likes to be on my head (laughs)!"

Pets for Vets will pair veterans with the animal of their choice. To learn more about it, head to www.petsforvetswisconsin.org or www.pets-for-vets.com.

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