By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I work with many Soldiers who face significant challenges after sustaining physical and emotional combat injuries, and have the courage to face their challenges and improve their quality of life. One such individual is AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser. Paiser epitomizes what courage and rising above anything that is thrown against you are all about. His experience also emphasizes that there are many good people in this world who will go out of their way to assist Veterans like Chris.
Paiser deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard 2nd/108th Infantry out of Morrisonville, NY, as a fire-team leader with 17 years of experience. In 2004, he took his fire team to the Post Exchange (PX) on their day off. The facility came under rocket fire. He was hit with shrapnel and severely damaged his right eye.
He was medevaced to Baghdad, where doctors removed the shrapnel and then transferred him to Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) in Germany and the United States. Despite a belief that his sight would return in at least one eye, he didn’t regain vision in either. This was, as one might imagine, a very tough time for Chris and his family.
In a recent Press Republican article, Paiser discussed the depression following his injury saying, “I didn’t want to get off the couch or out of bed, and my wife (Mary) would say, ‘You didn’t come home in a box. Move.’” Paiser went to a rehab center for the blind in Connecticut and learned to use a mobility cane and through these experiences he “was regaining some independence.”
At this point, AW2 connected Paiser with Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, an AW2 Community Support Network organization that trains guide dogs for the blind, and Ike, a 2-year-old black Labrador. With this new addition to his Family , Paiser found an even greater sense of freedom and independence as Ike helped him find his way without relying on someone else’s guidance.
From my experience with Chris, it is clear that Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind is a great resource to assist blind AW2 Veterans like Paiser with finding the courage and perseverance to rise above any challenge on their path to independence. With companions like Ike, Chris and other sight-impaired Veterans can enjoy more freedom to engage in outside activities with Family and community resources.
Paiser recently spoke at an American Legion Veterans Day remembrance ceremony and continues on his way to greater independence.