by: Dan Daru
DENVER — On the outside, 48-year-old Denver resident Ryan Kelly looks like your average guy.
With a quick smile and a shake of the hand, he’s just easy to be with.
But on the inside, Kelly carries a very heavy load.
“I couldn’t sleep. And I’d be wandering around the house with a shotgun, you know, making sure the locks are double, triple checked,” Kelly said.
Kelly served 15 years in the Army National Guard. He flew Huey and Black Hawk helicopters, mostly medivac.
“There’s a chance, a very good chance, that you’re not going to come home,” he said.
In 2006, Kelly was grounded, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Life in Iraq sucks. It just sucks,” he said.
Life back in the states for a soldier with PTSD wasn’t much better. Kelly was the perfect candidate for Freedom Service Dogs of America’s pilot program, Operation Full Circle.
“They’re actually learning how to train the dogs instead of just taking a dog that’s trained and work with it. They’ve done a lot of training themselves and worked through issues with the dogs,” said Cathy Kowalski, service dog trainer with Freedom Service Dogs of America.
Having a companion like Jarvis helps keep Kelly in the present and to even look forward to the future.
“It’s incredible. It’s transformational actually,” Kelly said.
It’s big medicine.
“He is big medicine. That’s a good nickname. That’s a good name for you, (Jarvis), big medicine, isn’t it. I like that,” Kelly said.
So does Jarvis.