First veteran and service dog team

(WBNG) – Over 50 veterans from across the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania made their way to our nation’s capital last week on the tenth Twin Tiers Honor Flight.

A veteran and his service dog, Abby Ann, broke barriers on the journey by being the first veteran and service dog team to take part in an honor flight and they hope to start a new trend for future flights.

“Taking part in the honor flight is a real privilege for me,” said Jeffrey Kreider, a veteran of the Gulf War Army, also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “

Kreider trained Abby to be his PTSD service dog through the local nonprofit, Stand With Me.

“We specifically look after veterans with a mental disability,” said founder and director Francess McMahon.

“Having a service dog is the same as having a wheelchair,” said Kreider, “it’s basically a medical device, so they need to be treated that way.”

McMahon said PTSD can be a disability that can prevent veterans from engaging in everyday life. She said service dogs help with a variety of symptoms, from panic attacks to hypervigilance.

“The military calls it ‘I got your six’,” said McMahon, “so the dog always has its six, and that reduces hypervigilance.”

Kreider said this trip and much more would not have been possible without Abby by his side.

“She means everything to me, she literally saved my life,” said Kreider, “without her I wouldn’t be here now. She is my PTSD service dog, she helps me in everyday life, she is my unconditional partner.”

“It is only when many veterans have a service dog that they realize how much that service dog can improve their quality of life and help them be by their side and make them more comfortable in public places and events such as the Honor Flight,” said McMahon, “It’s not that the day was symptom-free for Jeff or any of the other veterans, but it is possible. Symptoms are well under control because of Abby’s presence for him to attend.”

Your hope now is that this will mark a new chapter for veterans and honor flights for years to come.

“Hopefully it will show that veterans with service dogs can take the flight of honor with them,” said Kreider, “they can go and the staff will be happy to help them and make it accessible to them.”

To learn more about the Honor Flight experience, follow this link.