ATASCOCITA, Texas - One local veteran got a new companion to help him through thick and thin. A veteran support group recognized him, his accomplishments and his sacrifices, while offering him a lifelong friend.
Marine Corps veteran Juan Solis, who served from 2005 to 2009 as an infantryman, served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Solis never thought he'd have a best friend with quite so much hair.
"Good boy, Tex," Solis said petting a 15 month old Belgium Malinois. "That's exactly what it is -- a new member to the family and I'm very happy. I'm ecstatic."
At the Tin Roof in Atascocita, dozens filled the outside porch listening to Solis' story.
"Juan was riding in a vehicle and the sides fell off, and he basically tumbled down a short embankment on his head wearing 140 pound of gear ... was basically knocked unconscious and has a severe traumatic brain injury," said Jeff Anderson, CEO of Rebuilding Warriors, a nonprofit group that assists veterans in need.
Rebuilding Warriors provides highly trained and socialized service and companion dogs to honorably discharged veterans who are amputees as well as those with PTSD and TBI.
"It can be very overwhelming especially when you start pushing everybody away, and because you don't want to be attached to anything that's going to hurt you," said Solis, a father of two from Katy.
"He really wants his old life back, and he's struggling but he wants to be a better man every day -- and we thought -- these are the people that we want to help," Anderson said.
Tin Roof's owners allowed Rebuilding Warriors to present Tex, a service dog, to Solis, providing a lunch and space free of charge. Anderson and dog trainer Amy Noyes presented gave the dog to Solis, also free of charge.
"When days are rough Tex is going to be there for him to help lift his spirits," said Noyes, who spent hours upon hours training Tex. "That bond's going to be everlasting."
"It helps me a lot," said Solis. "Especially through the times I'm going through right now."
Veterans and community members, some who never met Solis came up to him after the presentation.
"We always come back thinking the world is against us but these little things here (help)," said Marine Corps veteran Leonardo Cortinas. "I took (saw this event) off a Facebook page. He's a Marine, so he's my brother regardless no matter what. I'm here to support him."
"I'm excited because it's going to help the community, and it's going to help him get his life back," said Navy veteran Voria Booth.
Anderson said this dog will be his companion. Tex is trained to touch and connect with people when they sense tension or trauma.
"Whether you're in a good mood or a bad mood -- it’s going to be in a good mood and that dog is slowly going to teach him how to love again and trust again," said Anderson.
Solis cannot wait to train with Tex, a dog that is truly man's best friend.
"He's supposed to sense whenever (my emotions are) fluxuating or getting a flash back," said Solis. "He's going to sense that and going to start licking me and coming to me and letting me know, 'Calm down, buddy. You're not alone.' So, I'm looking forward to that."
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