ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- He's loyal, large, and lovable. That's how the Anniston Army Depot industrial hygienist describes her constant companion. She is quick to point out that her four-legged friend, Gunny, provides an invaluable service. Joye Brown, who has worked for the federal government in a civilian capacity since 1986, served in the military. She recently retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. Having deployed between CONUS and OCONUS locations as a liaison officer, she suffered a battle-related injury in 2010 that required the assistance of a service animal to help with balance and mobility. That's when K-9s for Veterans, Inc., a non-profit veteran-owned business, located in Tampa, Fla., came to the rescue.
Brown's canine is a mixed breed with a strong Doberman Pinscher resemblance and has been trained to perform specific tasks in order to assist Brown with her daily activities. His shiny coat, athletic build, great temperament and intelligence are easily recognizable.
Weighing in at about 88 pounds, Gunny is the perfect guardian. "He picked me," Brown said while describing their first encounter in October 2011. "There were five dogs that were trained to aid with my medical condition, but Gunny and I bonded overnight." Even with the immediate bonding, there were still mandatory requirements for Brown. "She and Gunny are certified as a team," said Pam Halley, executive director of K-9s in a telephone interview. "They have completed all their required training. My husband Mike and I are always excited the see how the veteran's outlook changes as a result of the pairing. We see self-esteems repaired and lives restored." The organization provides well-trained dogs to be service dogs for disabled veterans with invisible disabilities, such as heart attack, stroke, seizures and PTSD. They operate in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Assistance Dogs International. To date, the Halleys have placed 89 dogs with their owners.
Despite the deployments, injuries and recuperation period, Brown's supervisor of 17 years, Steve Henry, says she has impeccable work ethics. "She's a real contributor to the Industrial Hygiene Office. She's always been a very smart, conscientious employee. She is quickly regaining the kind of capabilities she has always had. It's great to see her growing and improving on a daily basis," he said. Brown is reintegrating back into the workplace and becoming stronger each day. Her primary duties include oversight of automated programs, coordination with the Directorate of Information Management for development of a medical scheduling program for the depot's Dear Occupational Health Clinic, which will be one-of-a-kind in the Army for occupational health medical surveillance and tracking. Additionally, she provides professional advice, reviews, training and support to allied programs. "We are honored to accommodate her. She's a veteran who has returned to the workplace after sustaining injuries," Henry added. "She is working really hard to recover and is a productive staff member filling important voids." According to long-time friend Susie Vernon, Brown is an extremely patient mentor and teacher. "She and Gunny are truly a team. She is a remarkable person and having dedicated a portion of her life to serve our county exemplifies her dedication. She is one of my heroes," said Vernon.