Military Veteran Otis “Mac” McMillan lives in Maine with his wife Michelle. They enjoy boating, fishing, and hiking with their large family, including five children, eleven grandchildren, and one great-grand child. However, unnoticed by strangers, Mac suffers tremendously from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, as well as paralyzing stress-induced seizures, which is why his doctors recommend he be teamed up with a Service Dog. While visiting ECAD and meeting Service Dog-in-training Milano, the McMillans knew immediately that an ECAD Service Dog will help improve Mac’s quality of life.
I grew up in central North Carolina just outside of Fort Bragg Army Base. My family was never rich, but we were taught to work hard for whatever we wanted and to never settle for less. I have four brothers and we all live to serve. We all believed that it is truly better to give than to receive. Four of us decided to serve in the military, and three stayed to make it a career. The brotherly competition to make our parents proud provided a lot of the inner motivation that continues to drive me today.
The desire to make a difference, and have an impact on the world found me raising my right hand to join the United States Marine Corps in 1988. I was able to see some amazing things as a member of the USMC. I traveled to several countries; helped retrieve hostages in the Philippines and assisted in the cleanup of helicopter crash on Mount Fuji where we recovered the remains of our fallen brothers in arms. I deployed to deserts where a remarkable team worked together and the horror of unpredictability unfolded. After several more deployments, a few explosions and fire fights later, I decided to leave the Marine Corps. However, when I came back something did not feel right and I didn't understand what was wrong with me. (I had no clue at the time what PTSD was and how it was affected me).
After meeting my wife and starting a new chapter in life, I enlisted into the United States Army with the help of Senator Olympia Jean Snowe of Maine. Senator Snowe, to my surprise, met with me in person and we talked for hours. She took an honest interest in my situation and wanted to know my military story. She seemed to understand my sincere desire to return to the service, my love of the military and how much I missed the brotherhood. She saw something in me that Thursday morning and as I left I made a promise to her that I would make her proud every day I was in. She then wrote a strong personal letter of recommendation endorsing my enlistment into the United States Army. I went on to receive some of the highest honors an Army personnel could receive, many of them more than once. I was so impressed that she actually followed my career throughout my military service.
My time in service has left me with a lot of scars, but when most people see me they say “you don’t look disabled”. One time I was even screamed at for being parked in a handicap spot when I was having a particularly bad day with pain. After seeing the handicap plates she said to her son, “you can’t be sure, some of THEM just think because they have vet plates they can park there”. Although I may look okay on the outside, I'm in need of two hip replacements, two knee replacements, I have PTSD, seizures, legally blind without prosthetic contacts, crippling migraines and I’m 100% disabled. The injuries sustained during my 22 years of service have started to take its toll on my physical and emotional wellbeing. I truly thank God every day that I don’t look like what I have been through. I would just like to feel a little normal again, and allow my wife and kids the comfort of not worrying about me as much. “Tears of a Clown” would best describe me; at first glance you may see a happy face, but often times in reality I'm masking the pain and the struggles that often lie within. I can make the world laugh while dying of loneliness inside. After all I have been through, I can tell you right now today, I would happily do it all again. The bond that is created between the men and women you serve with and fight beside is really beyond words, you depend on them and they lean on you, and when no one else understands, they do but not a word is said because they know.
Finding ECAD has truly been a blessing, meeting Lu, her staff, and the dogs was a very educational and emotional experience and it has inspired me to help other veterans find ECAD as well after seeing how much it changed me in a day. The ECAD program has given me a lot of hope for other vets like me. Currently the Veteran's Administration will not pay to supply our veterans with service dogs. To fill this need, ECAD has been generous enough to provide dogs for veterans by successfully partnering them, but they need your help to continue!
Donations are 100% tax-deductible as allowable by law. If your employer has a Matching Gift program, please complete the form and mail it to ECAD, P.O. Box 831, Torrington, CT 06790.