For retired United States Army Capt. Luis Montalvan, the ravages of war were far beyond what he could process.
Montalvan is scheduled to speak about post-traumatic stress disorder Friday at CMU as a part of the Veterans on Campus speaker series from 12:30 to 5 p.m. in the College of Medicine Auditorium. He will be accompanied by the one thing that helped his recovery: His trusty companion and service dog, Tuesday.
The event is presented by the CMU Veterans’ Resource Center and the Mid Central Area Health Education Center.
His presentation will focus on returning home from military service after being diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that has made his civilian life a living hell.
“I was in a bad place,” Montalvan said. “I was very affected by PTSD and other physical problems, and I was also drinking heavily.”
Lisa Hadden, executive director of the Mid Central Area Health Education Center, hopes this event will raise awareness issues veterans face as they return to civilian life.
“We are aware that we are going to see the largest deployment of veterans coming back to this country in the next few years, since World War II,” Hadden said. “Veterans will be flooding our healthcare system, our mental healthcare system and we need to be prepared and aware of the issues facing them so we can assist them properly.”
Mid Central AHEC and the CMU Veterans’ Resource Center created a partnership and decided Montalvan would be a good speaker to bring to campus to speak on these issues.
Steve Rellinger is the director of the Veterans’ Resource Center, said this event will help those dealing with PTSD, but will also show future soldiers what dealing with the disorder is like.
“We are hoping to fill the 125 seat auditorium,” Rellinger said. “There will also be two additional rooms that will be broadcasting the presentation and each room will hold 40 people. We hope to fill the entire venue.”
According to Rellinger, AHEC will use money from an educational activities fund to pay Montalvan the $2,500 fee for his appearance.
The retired Captain served in the Army for 17 years, earning honors including Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. He was partnered with Tuesday in 2008, the year after he retired to help fight some of the effects of PTSD.
According to Montalvan, he was one of the earliest military veterans to be assigned a service dog.
“After hearing about the program where service dogs were assigned to help people like myself, I applied and was accepted,” he said.
Tuesday came from an organization called Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, an organization that trains and assigns service dogs to assist people with physical and psychological disabilities.
Part of Tuesday’s two years of training, were spent in a prison training program. During the training, Montalvan said an inmate abused Tuesday leading to sustained trauma for the dog. Tuesday was then matched with a different inmate who built him back up and helped train him until eventually Tuesday was assigned to Montalvan.
Montalvan said the pairing with Tuesday was a blessing as he is capable of helping Montalvan in many different ways.
“Tuesday will help me balance as I walk downstairs and he also does things to mitigate some of the symptoms of PTSD,” Montalvan said. “So he will do things like get in front of me if I’m uncomfortable with someone in front of me and give me a hug or snuggle on command or when he senses I’m not feeling well.”
Montalvan wrote a New York Times best selling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him” about his military experience including his experience with PTSD and his time with companion.
Those who attend will have a chance to purchase a copy at the book signing afterwards, sponsored by the CMU Bookstore.
However moving, some have challenged the accuracy of Montalvan’s story.
Some who were close to him allege that parts of the story in his book regarding details and descriptions of an attack where he was injured in 2003 during the Iraq War may not have been entirely true.
Associated Press reporters Hillel Atalie and Allen Breed published an article quoting men who served with Montalvan, claiming he embellished critical details of the attack.
When asked about these allegations, Montalvan said he stands by what he wrote in his book.
Rellinger had no comment on the situation.
The event will include a presentation from Montalvan and Tuesday, followed by a question and answer session, veteran’s panel discussion and question and answer session concluding with the book signing.