The newest face to Southport in Mashpee is a fluffy cocker spaniel named Southie who can light up a room in seconds.
Southie has lived with the Warry family for a month and already she has helped.
For Charles D. Warry, who served four years in the US Army and who received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, Southie helped with recent post-traumatic stress episodes. “I’ve calmed down a lot,” Mr. Warry said.
His wife of 49 years, Patricia Warry, has seen a calming effect on her husband.
Just days ago, when he felt an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder come over him, he lightly grabbed hold of the dog, and the feeling passed. “It worked out very well,” Mr. Warry said. “It had a very calming effect.”
The black cocker spaniel is a 2-year-old rescue from Arkansas and, pending approval from a certified trainer, will likely become a service dog for the Southport resident.
And while Southie came from Arkansas, the means by which Mr. Warry came to be paired with the pooch stems from the loving community he has spent his retirement with.
For the last two years, the Southport Veterans Committee has held a triathlon sporting event to benefit a veteran within the community. The competition included bocce, shuffleboard and golf. The event raised $8,000. Members of the committee decided that the funds should be used to purchase a service dog for Mr. Warry. Southport developer Ronald Bonvie donated another $5,000 toward the gift.
“It’s an amazing thing when someone gives their time and life for service to this country,” Mr. Bonvie said. “So I do what I can.”
Southie came through the local nonprofit Heroes in Transition, a Mashpee-based group that provides services for veterans.
On Friday, November 11, Mr. Warry and Southie will be honored at the Southport Veterans Day Ceremony at 11 AM in the Ballroom at Southport during the community’s fourth Veterans Day ceremony. One of the event organizers Neil Harris said a number of other veterans will be honored at the service, including two from World War II. He said that in all of Southport, there are over 100 veterans who fought in different wars.
Also during the event, the Southport veterans group will accept unwrapped toys to replace toys lost in a fire at Joint Base Cape Cod; a program annually provides toys and supplies to military families and it lost everything in a recent fire.
Mr. Bonvie will also announce a donation of $8,000 toward another service dog to be given to a veteran.
Like Mr. Warry, post-traumatic stress disorder affects several veterans returning from war. PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
In Vietnam, Mr. Warry served directly under a general in the 1st Infantry Division. His job was to take field reports collected at base camps throughout Vietnam, and then brief the general each morning. He worked from midnight until noon. Field reports came into base camps, which were issued to him. He would review the reports and then plot where the enemy appeared to be moving to provide a picture of where units would be located.
Once in his service, he intercepted a message from the enemy in Morse code and was able to pass the message along to the proper channels. He said they were able to divert a flight and launch an airstrike on what turned out to be a massive stockpile of enemy weapons and supplies.
Mr. Warry experienced seizures brought on from PTSD while he was still serving in Vietnam, which he left in 1969. His Bronze Star he earned for serving 300 days in Vietnam. Ms. Warry said that even while he suffered overseas, the military declined to bring him back home. Even when he did return, he was treated for epilepsy rather than PTSD. The VA eventually recognized his PTSD and has been extremely helpful since, Ms. Warry said, but when he first came home, no one knew what PTSD was.
Mr. Warry worked as a manager in the postal service when he returned. He and his wife lived in their hometown of Lynn and had three children. As Mr. Warry’s PTSD worsened over the years, he was forced to retire early. He said that before retiring, he took a year off from work, which helped. He relaxed. But as soon as he went back to the job, the anxiety came right back. Stress, he said, is a major trigger to PTSD.
Mr. Warry now receives medication that calms him, but has no medication that treats the disorder, his wife said. Still, Southie has calmed him even in the month they have been together. He said that he is honored to be given Southie through the kind donations of the residents of Southport, where he and his wife have lived for 15 years.