Editor's Note: All week, HLN is taking a look at Stories of Courage - special coverage of our American heroes and their service animals, who are helping them readjust to civilian life. Don't forget to watch Stories of Courage: K9s for Warriors, an HLN Special Presentation, premiering on Veterans Day, November 11, at 7 p.m. EST.
Karl Fleming joined the military because he needed a change in his life. He had a successful career with a shipping company but said he wanted to do something more. He found that something in the U.S. Army. Fleming began his service in 2009 and never looked back.
A few years later, Fleming volunteered to go to Afghanistan. There, he worked as a bodyguard for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He enjoyed it, except for the almost-nightly rocket attacks. Karl was never hit directly by a rocket, but he didn't need to be to feel its effects. The rockets caused severe shaking, shaking so bad that Fleming was left with many injuries, including concussions and a traumatic brain injury. He was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fleming said he was down but not out. Once he returned from Afghanistan, Fleming underwent one test after another. At first, Fleming said he thought he could recover or be able to return to duty and realize his dream of becoming an officer. But then the news he never imagined he'd hear: Fleming would never be an officer because he was too injured to continue.
Fleming said he was depressed after learning his military career was over. Add that to the memory loss, extreme anxiety and the many painful medical procedures he was already experiencing. He rarely ventured outside on the weekend. Instead, he preferred to sleep in. All that changed, however, with Fleming's service dog, Kuchar.
Fleming said he had heard dogs could help people suffering with PTSD, so he started doing research. Karl eventually selected K9s for Warriors
, which is where he met Kuchar, a yellow lab. Fleming and Kuchar trained together for weeks, before returning to Fort Benning. K9s for Warriors provided Fleming with Kuchar and the training for free.
Life with Kuchar has been life-changing. Fleming doesn't sleep in anymore because Kuchar won't let him. Instead, they venture out into a world Karl was once afraid of -- a world for Fleming that now seems impossible to imagine without Kuchar by his side.
See more stories like this on Veterans Day when HLN presents Stories of Courage: K9s for Warriors, premiering at 7 p.m. ET on November 11.
For more information about K9s for Warriors, or to make a donation, visit their website, k9sforwarriors.org