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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Pets2Vets Group Is Helping Soldiers Deal With Stress Disorder

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HOST:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

(MUSIC)

I'm Doug Johnson.

Today, we play music from a new album by Animal Collective ...

And answer a question about funeral traditions in the United States ...

But first, we tell about a new organization that is finding homes for animals and helping American soldiers at the same time.

(MUSIC)

HOST:

The United States military is dealing with more cases of post traumatic stress disorder among is soldiers than ever before. People with the condition often suffer continual frightening thoughts, feelings of anger and unease. They also may feel disconnected from people, especially family and close friends. PTSD often causes severe sleep problems.

One soldier with PTSD recently found an unlikely source of healing for his condition -- his dog Cheyenne. So he started an organization to share his hope with other veterans. Mario Ritter has our story on the group Pets2Vets.

MARIO RITTER:

The Washington Animal Rescue League center is modern, clean and bright. Classical music plays throughout the building. Water streams down the windows on the roof over every dog's room. The water and music are supposed to calm the dogs. But they still bark and jump up happily as people pass by.

(SOUND)

The center seems to have almost every kind of dog imaginable. There is even a dog that is half-wolf. She and about one hundred other dogs were rescued from a dog sled operation in Quebec, Canada. The center in Washington took in thirteen of them.

But today at the shelter, there is one very little dog with a big job ahead of her. Xena is a Jack Russell mix puppy. She is recovering from a broken leg.

Will Acevedo and Xena
Will Acevedo and Xena

Will Acevedo, or Ace, is a retired United States Army veteran from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He was identified as having post traumatic stress disorder when he returned from service in Iraq. A new organization called Pets2Vets has brought these two together. Will Acevedo will give Xena a home and help heal her leg. Xena will help heal Will Acevedo's heart and mind.

WILL ACEVEDO: "Interacting with the puppy's going to be great. I guess, you know, it will give me that feeling of closeness. And, sometimes animals can fill that void that human beings can't fill. Like the dog will love you unconditionally no matter what. You know, people, we judge each other because we're human. But pets, they don't judge you. They love their masters."

Dave Sharpe is the founder of Pets2Vets. He had a terrifying experience serving in the United States Air Force in Saudi Arabia and suffered PTSD in silence for years after. His friends and family noticed the change in him. He had trouble controlling his anger. His easy going personality disappeared. He would have terrible experiences at night. He would wake up scared or angry and get out of bed. He would start hitting and kicking the walls or furniture.

But then he got a puppy, Cheyenne. He had to take care of her. He says he woke up in the middle of the night as usual. He felt angry. He started hitting and kicking the refrigerator.

DAVE SHARPE: "And then I turn around and I see this little puppy dog looking up at me, wagging her tail, and uh, everything just left. I got calm. So I picked her up and I took her to the couch and I just started talking to her about what happened. Playing it in my head. Did I do enough, or did I not do enough? Should I have shot the guy?

I know I wasn't being judged. So, talking to Cheyenne, I got a lot of this out. And I cried in front of her. Didn't feel any type of vulnerability. I started getting better. My friends noticed a change in my attitude. My leadership noticed a change in my attitude at work. She's done a lot for me."

Dave Sharpe established Pets2Vets as a result of his experience with his own dog. The organization is based in Arlington, Virginia. It has been hugely popular. It officially opened in October. Already it is connecting pets with two to three veterans each week. The Washington Animal Rescue League does not charge the usual adoption fees for the vets. And Pets2Vets provides a start-up kit of pet equipment.

Dave Sharpe sees even bigger things for the group. There are Veterans Affairs hospitals and animal rescue centers in every state. He also thinks the group could be expanded to include other victims of post traumatic stress disorder.

But right now just taking care of his fellow soldiers is a lot. Dave Sharpe says the veterans have sacrificed so much. And, the dogs and cats have so much to give. So everybody wins.

(MUSIC)

HOST:

Soldiers carry the casket of Michael Grant Cahill, a physician's assistant killed in the shooting November 5 at the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. He was the only civilian among the 13 dead.
Soldiers carry the casket of Michael Grant Cahill, a physician's assistant killed in the shooting November 5 at the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. He was the only civilian among the 13 dead.

A college student in China wants to know about common burial practices in the United States. American families have several decisions to make when a loved one dies. The first, and perhaps most important, is whether to bury the body or cremate it.

Cremation is the act of burning the body until only the ashes are left. The ashes are placed in a container called an urn. The urn is often put on display during the memorial service. After the ceremony, the family may keep the ashes in their home. Or they may bury them in the earth, place them in a tomb or scatter them in a special place.

The Cremation Association of North America says cremations were used in almost thirty-five percent of funerals in two thousand seven.

This was an eleven percent increase from nineteen ninety-seven. The group says the cremation rate is expected to increase to almost fifty-nine percent by two thousand twenty-five.

While cremation has grown in popularity, most families in the United States still choose to bury their loved ones.

After death, the person's body is usually embalmed to preserve it until the funeral is held. A traditional full service funeral usually includes a public viewing. This is called a wake. The body is placed in a special burial box called a casket or coffin. Then a memorial service is held. The service may include music and comments about the loved one by family members and friends. A religious leader may also talk about the person and offer spiritual comfort to the family. After the service, family members and friends go to the gravesite where the body is buried or placed in a tomb.

American funerals can be quite costly. A traditional full service funeral averages about six thousand dollars. Flowers, funeral cars and special burial requests can increase the cost to more than ten thousand dollars. Cremations usually cost thousands of dollars less.

HOST:

Animal Collective is a music group made up of four friends who met in Baltimore, Maryland. They have been playing together since high school. Animal Collective just released a new album, "Fall Be Kind." June Simms plays some of its songs and some older music.

JUNE SIMMS:

David Portner goes by the stage name Avey Tare. Noah Lennox is Panda Bear. Brian Weitz is Geologist and Josh Dibb is Deakin.

Animal Collective
Animal Collective

Animal Collective has a sound all its own. The band mixes the sounds of psychedelic music with pop, indie rock and "freak folk." "My Girls," from the album "Merriweather Post Pavilion," is a good example.

(MUSIC)

Noah Lennox, or Panda Bear, says the name Animal Collective came from the first recording he and Josh Dibb put together. It was on a tape cassette and Lennox drew panda bears all over the cover. As a result, he got the idea for "Animal Collective."

Here is "Bleed" from the new album, "Fall Be Kind."

(MUSIC)

Animal Collective has recorded eight studio albums since the band's first in two thousand. The group has also recorded five EPs, or extended plays, and two live albums.

We leave you with Animal Collective performing "On A Highway" from their latest album, "Fall Be Kind."

(MUSIC)

HOST:

I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by June Simms and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

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