BEL AIRE, Kansas -- The legacy of a Bel Aire soldier killed in Iraq more than five years ago is living on thanks to the work of a program started out in North Carolina.
'Carolina Patriot Rovers' rescue Golden Retrievers, train them to help soldiers and honor heroes at the same time.
Heroes like Sergeant Alex Funcheon.
"It's special to have your son be honored in this way," says Alex Funcheon's mother Karen.
She got in contact with Carolina Patriot Rovers through a network on Facebook.
The non-profit's founder David Cantara helps train rescued service dogs for veterans.
"They name the dogs after a soldier who's been killed, and they asked permission to name one after our son Alex. So, I said yes," explains Karen.While named for Karen's son, Alex belongs to retired combat medic Sergeant Dan Wetherbee and his family, who live in Massachusetts.
"I don't know who was more excited: my son or me about having the dog," laughs Wetherbee.
Dan and his wife are both retired combat medics who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
"At first I thought well how will she help me? But actually she's pretty calming. She sleeps a lot," says Wetherbee.
Alex is also trained to sense Dan's panic attacks and will jump on his lap or give him a nuzzle.
"That way I recognize that I'm having a a panic attack and I put my focus on the dog instead of the panic attack," explains Wetherbee.
Alex the Patriot Rover went through eight months of training in High Point, North Carolina.
Both Dan and his family as well as Karen Funcheon attended graduation with nine other veterans and their Patriot Rovers.
"Even if it was just the week we trained with the, you could see the help right there. I think Dave is doing an incredible job," says Wetherbee.
Age, which war or where you live it doesn't matter.
There's no cost to the veteran, only an application to the program.
All funded largely in part by David's life savings and donations, to help those who protected us first.
"Companionship and the ability that people recognize that PTSD is an actual injury and the dogs help out tremendously," explains Wetherbee.
Saving dogs, helping soldiers, honoring heroes.
"There's so many memorials out there, monuments - so this is something that's alive," says Karen.
Karen Funcheon keeps in touch with Alex and his family through a Facebook page dedicated to 'Alex Patriot-Rover Funcheon.'
Patriot Rovers relies on donations to help them get dogs to veterans.
There's a link here
where you can find more information.
The group also has a Facebook page
just search for Carolina Patriot Rovers.