Soldier’s Best Friend Fundraiser Changing Lives of Army Vets, Shelter Dogs, and Central Students


SOLDIER’S BEST FRIEND HITS CLOSE TO HOME — Ms. Thomas ROTC teachers, Sgt. Major Lewis (right), Sgt. Major Woodham (left).

What would it be like to have a disorder that causes flashbacks to a horrific experience at the trigger of a noise? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, often referred to as PTSD, is a common disorder among veteran soldiers in the United States. Many veterans who suffer from PTSD are not the veterans who look like they are struggling; these soldiers suffer in silence, reliving traumatic experiences at the trigger of a word, a sound, a smell, a noise, or just anything that can spark a memory about the event. Some of these veterans may experience reoccurring nightmares, increased irritability, or depression or become emotionally cutoff from others. Many vets are unable to function in a normal society and require hours upon hours of treatment and medication just to get the disorder under control.

Ms. Lauren Thomas, Psychology teacher, was made aware of a non-profit organization called Soldier’s Best Friend through a local news story on a man named Neil Grehlinger, who was traveling cross-country to raise awareness and collect money for the foundation. Soldier’s Best Friend  adopts dogs from shelters, who would otherwise be euthinzed, and they are trained to become service dogs. These dogs are specifically trained to recognize symptoms of a PTSD attack, and they are able to distract the veteran from the occurring moment.

Ms. Thomas has inspired her psychology classes and the community around her to help her with this fundraiser. Thomas’ goal is to accumulate $2500, the amount it costs to train one service dog for a veteran suffering with PTSD, through donations for the Soldier’s Best Friend organization. She and her classes have been able to spread the word about this organization through the local news stations, radio stations, and the local politicians, including Chattanooga’s mayor, Andy Burke.  She has also spread awareness around Central’s campus through posters, announcements, and her students.

“[My goal for the fundraiser is] number one, raise awareness for our military veterans and those who suffer with PTSD, and number two, for us to show our gratitude to those veterans for serving our country,” said Thomas.

Many students have been able to latch onto the idea of this organization because they have relatives who have suffered or are suffering with PTSD. Hannah Holmberg, one of Thomas’ psychology students, has become extremely inspired to help with this fundraiser, because her grandfather was a veteran who served in Vietnam.

“It has really made me proud of our school and students…and it makes me feel like I am, in some way, honoring my papaw,” said Hannah.

Mr. David Lewis, ROTC adviser, has also become very involved in the project. He has spoken to Thomas’s psychology class numerous times, as well as helped spread the word in our local community. Mr. Lewis served in the Vietnam war and was in the service for 30 years.

” For every person who openly suffers with PTSD, there is someone suffering in silence.  For myself, that was the case.  While on active duty I was in denial or concealed this fact.  Why? Fear of harming my military career.  With the love and patients of my wife and two great friends I met here in Chattanooga after I retired I was able to receive the help I needed…I was so proud of seeing the faces of CHS students taking a huge interest in a program that does not benefit a club, sport team or CHS but some unknown soldier who has volunteered to fight to keep this great country safe and free.” said Mr. Lewis.

The Soldier’s Best Friend fundraiser will begin collecting money on October 13th, and with a goal of $2500, this fundraiser really can “touch two lives at once.”