79-year-old Irwin Stovroff knows something about being a warrior, and carrying out a mission. In WWII after his plane was shot down, he parachuted behind enemy lines, but managed to toss the dog tags that identified him as Jewish, before being captured. He spent the next year in a Nazi POW camp.
In 2008 this honored combat vet began a new mission, one that focused on wounded warriors. Stovroff launched Vets Helping Heroes a nonprofit to help soldiers by providing them with service and guide dogs.
After learning that the federal government has no program to match injured soldiers with service dogs, Irwin Stovroff started a charity in 2007 called Vets Helping Heroes. Since then, he’s raised $3 million to supply vets with seeing-eye and therapy dogs. "I really recognize what a dog can mean, what a dog can do for somebody," he told NBC’s “Nightly News.” "The dog is a true lifesaver."
The highly trained service dog, Stovroff said, can give the wounded warrior "mobility, independence and a companionship that he can't get from any other way." Lt. Col. Kathy Champion served with distinction for 27 years and commanded a special combat unit in Iraq. After, returning home, she went blind from a mysterious virus she contracted in Iraq that attacked her spinal cord. At first, Champion shut herself off from family and friends.
"I became a hermit in my own house," she said. "I quit school. I quit my job. I quit being social. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I stopped answering phone calls from my son and daughter. I didn't tell anybody what was wrong. I didn't want anyone to know I wasn't the soldier I had been."
Concerned friends forced her out of her shell and she applied for a service dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs, one of the country's leading training facilities. Stovroff’s charity donated thousands of dollars to sponsor the dog, and Champion spent 26 days living and training with "Angel" at the facility's Florida campus. She described it as a "life-changing" event.