PHOENIX, Ariz. — Eric Wolfe has come a long way. It was just a few years ago that this Valley dog trainer and U.S. Air Force veteran put a gun in his mouth and was ready to end his life.
“I remember hugging my wife and saying, ‘This is not going to define me anymore,'” he said.
KPHO reports Wolfe suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He’s been living with it for years following three tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Wolfe worked in the K-9 explosives unit, teaching dogs how to detect bombs. It was a job that made it extremely difficult for him to readjust to normal life back home.
Fortunately Wolfe got the help he needed before it was too late. But sadly, many of his fellow veterans do not, and never get that second chance.
Recent statistics show 22 US veterans commit suicide every day.
It is for that reason that this Queen Creek vet created a program called Project 22.
Wolfe has teamed up with the Arizona Animal Welfare League to train dogs to be placed with veterans and help them cope with PTSD.
“These people can’t wait any longer,” Wolfe said. “They need someone there to listen. They need someone there to know they care. They need someone to know they got your back and that’s what the dogs do.”
Wolfe said having a service dog has changed his life, allowing him to cope on a daily basis. He wants his fellow vets to have the same experience.
Michelle Ramos has known Wolfe for several years, and has seen firsthand his passion for helping his fellow Vets.
“His phone is on 24/7,” Ramos said. “If those vets need help, if there’s something going on with a dog, he answers phone whether it’s three in afternoon or three in morning. His dedication goes above and beyond any kind of commitment.”
Project 22 does not charge any money for placing dogs with vets so funding is entirely based on private donations.
Ramos wanted to give the program a boost, so she reached out to Pay it Forward to Wolfe.
“You are absolutely an inspiration to me and so many people and everything you do,” she told him. “Your commitment to Project 22 and dogs and helping people in general is beyond what any normal human does. So on behalf of Channel 5 and everyone you’ve helped, we’d like to Pay it Forward.”
“I’m sure he’ll take the money and put it right back into the program,” Ramos said. “That’s where his heart is.”
In addition to helping vets, Wolfe also is dedicated to helping abandoned pit bulls, which he trains exclusively for the program.
He says the more dogs he trains, the more lives he can save.
“I got to help them any way I can,”