BLAINE (FOX 9) - Army veteran and Mankato native Derek Dosedel wasn't in a good place after being medically retired in 2015 following 14 years of military duties.
He had done five tours in the war between Iraq and Afghanistan, and is one of many service members who come home struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For many, serving the country and putting their lives on the line for our freedom is too much to overcome mentally.
An estimated 22 veterans per day commit suicide, and it's the mission of K9s for Warriors to prevent that. The organization donates service dogs to military veterans having a tough time. Dosedel said it himself on Friday at the Polaris Military Outpost tent just off the No. 17 tee at the 3M Open: "I don't know if I'd still be here today if it wasn't for him. There's not a day that goes by where he doesn't make me smile or laugh."
He's talking about his service dog, Nelson, a calm and friendly yellow Labrador retriever. He's always by Dosedel's side, and is there when he needs him the most.
"Since I've received Nelson, my life has changed. He's literally been my life-saver," Dosedel said.
He had a chance encounter with another service member who had a service dog, and that's where he learned about K9s for Warriors. The organization was founded with a golf connection – David Duval's stepbrother was in law enforcement and wanted to find a way to give back after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became an Army contractor who trained bomb dogs and did two military tours in Iraq.
His mother noticed when he came home, everything changed when he was around dogs. Research showed dogs trained to do certain tasks can mitigate some symptoms associated with PTSD. K9s for Warriors was born in the kitchen of their home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Now, they host veterans every month for about three weeks to get to know their service dogs. The dogs take anywhere from two to six months for training. K9s for Warriors has paired 551 dogs with service members.
"It's about outcome, it's about saving lives and stopping the suicide epidemic among veterans," said Tim Crosby with K9s for Warriors.
It's personal for Polaris Chairman Scott Wine, former military himself. He spoke Friday about recently dropping his son off at the Naval Academy.
Polaris is celebrating 65 years in business on Friday. It got its start on Roseau as a small snowmobile company. Last year, they had more than $6 billion in revenue and became a Fortune 500 company. They also hire veterans, and are the top ultralight vehicle supplier to the military.
It was a no-brainer for Wine to contribute to K9s for Warriors with a dog, appropriately named Polaris.
"I know how traumatic those war experiences can be. There's many injuries that come back from the wars, but PTSD is one of the most difficult to treat," Wine said.
It's all about saving lives and preventing suicide.
"I've lost way too many friends to suicide myself, and if they would've had a service dog, they might still be here today," Dosedel said.