A Q&A with the veteran who founded the Battle Buddy Foundation and how Dayton benefits from its Sister Cities.By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Forging connections around the world.
By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Fifty years ago, the Dayton City Commission established the Sister City Committee with the mission of “promot[ing] peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.” In 1964, Dayton had just one sister city: Augsburg, Germany. Today, there are four more sister cities—Oiso, Japan; Monrovia, Liberia; Holon, Israel; and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina—but the mission remains the same, linking both student and business groups with their counterparts overseas.
Linking Schools for the Experience of a Lifetime
The Sister City Committee helps young people connect with their peers through partnerships that unite schools and other youth organizations with similar groups in a sister city. According to Ariel Walker, vice chair of the Sister City Committee, one successful partnership is between Jakob Fugger Gymnasium in Augsburg and Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton. The schools take turns sending and hosting cohorts of students, with the students who host their Augsburg counterparts one year having the first opportunity to travel to Germany the next. Students who visit their sister city high school work with their local teachers for a year prior to the visit to be sure they are prepared for the challenges of living and studying in another country.
Many of the students stay in touch with the friends they made while traveling, and Walker knows of at least a couple of students who have continued to travel throughout their college careers, an interest perhaps sparked during their high school exchanges. “You could just see how exciting this is,” says Hunt Brown, chair of the Sister City Committee, of the interaction he has observed among the students.
Better Business Solutions
“We want to get adults and youth traveling both ways and developing contacts that are both personal and business,” says Brown. One of the best examples of this is a delegation from Dayton’s city planning and water services that traveled to sister cities in 2012 to learn more about how other municipalities handle their infrastructure. The delegation went to both Sarajevo and Augsburg to explore how those cities operate and to form relationships with their counterparts that they can draw on in the future. “We’re working on follow-ups to those visits,” says Brown.
The sister cities themselves are chosen based on commonalities they may have with the Dayton area that will foster long-term relationships. For example, when the inaugural sister city Augsburg was chosen, there was already an existing relationship through then-Dayton-based NCR.
There are many ways interested Daytonians can get involved with the Sister Cities Committee. Individuals can apply to be on the board, or they can volunteer to become a “friend” of the sister cities and serve at upcoming events and during visits. The community also is welcome to attend the events that periodically surround visits, such as the concert that will take place when St. Stephan’s Youth Orchestra from Augsburg plays with the Dayton Youth Orchestra. Through these opportunities, it is easy to see that Dayton’s boundaries reach far beyond Ohio to embrace the entire world.
The Buddy System
A former Marine is working to give veterans access to service dogs.
When former Marine combat veteran Kenny Bass returned from the Iraq War, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other injuries from being hit by an IED. Bass knew he could help other veterans like himself make the transition back into civilian life, so he founded The Battle Buddy Foundation. We spoke with him to learn more.
Can you tell us about your service and experience as a wounded veteran?
I am a disabled Marine combat veteran from the Iraq War, and I served with the Marine infantry, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, for the first 8 months of the war in Iraq, during the invasion in 2003. On July 20 2003, I was wounded during a counter-ambush patrol, where I was hit with an IED. I have suffered PTSD, hearing loss, Behcet’s Disease and multiple other physical injuries due to my combat service since 2003.
Your doctor recommended you get a service dog. What can service animals do?
Service dogs can help a great deal with the anxiety, anger, hypervigilance, and other behaviors characteristic of PTSD, as well as assist with mobility issues due to other physical issues. My service dog, Atlas, is trained to recognize sleep disturbances and wake me from nightmares about my combat experiences, and detect and redirect flashbacks. Atlas is also trained to “post,” or stand in a position where he can watch my back in public places, which helps to mitigate the hyper-vigilance.
What barriers did you find to obtaining a service animal?
Service animals can be very expensive; a service dog can cost anywhere from $15 to $50,000. Organizations may also require the vet to relocate from his or her home for an extended period to complete the training, or have a long waiting list.
How did the idea for The Battle Buddy Foundation come about?
To fund Atlas, my brother and co-founder Jon convinced me to put my story on an online fundraising website; I was amazed how many people were willing to assist me. I contacted my long-time friend I had served with in Iraq, Joshua Rivers, to see if he could assist with spreading the word about my fundraising efforts. Not long after, he asked me how I felt about continuing doing what I was already doing with raising money, except doing it for other veterans.
How are the service dogs trained?
There are multiple stages of their training, including several basic tests. Upon completion of those, the service dog and veteran will continue “task training” for the tasks that will mitigate the handler’s specific symptoms to their disability. TBBF’s service dogs undergo over 165 hours of intense training over a period of eight months. Our veterans are directly involved in the entire process of the dogs’ training under the guidance of multiple experienced trainers.
How many vets have you helped with service dogs?
Since our incorporation in February 2003, TBBF has paired six dogs with veterans, with multiple more veterans and dogs preparing to enter the program.
Can you tell us about your activities beyond providing service dogs?
TBBF has a strong social media presence and is currently one of the most well-known veteran-founded service dog nonprofits in the country. We also allow veterans to “give back” through mentorship, volunteer work, and community events, and provide a channel for veteran and family support through our Veteran Education and Employment Program (VEEP).
What’s next for The Battle Buddy Foundation?
TBBF currently has two offices, our national headquarters in West Chester, Ohio, and our second office in Valencia, Calif. Currently, we have a training facility being built in Dallas, Texas, and are working toward construction of a training facility here in the Ohio Valley as well.
I have also taken part in a documentary, Searching For Home: Coming Back From War. There will be a local showing at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum’s IMAX Theater later in the year.
How can people get involved with and support your work?
People can join TBBF’s Support Company by becoming a monthly contributor or by making a one-time donation at tbbf.org/donate.
You can also visit our website and complete our volunteer application, or support our mission by holding a fundraiser and filling out our fundraising application at tbbf.org.