Queens veteran and service dog teach others to move forward

Captain James Van Thach and his dog, Liz. (Courtesy of Captain James Van Thach)
Captain James Van Thach and his dog, Liz. (Courtesy of Captain James Van Thach)

Captain James Van Thach was in his 30s, a recent law grad and ready for two years as a soldier in Iraq.

When he came home, he was a disabled veteran moving in with his parents.

“I felt like a shell of myself,” Van Thach told Metro of his return to New York in 2008 after being injured two separate times in Iraq.

The Queens native is working his way toward recovery with the help of Liz, a mixed Labrador and golden retriever service dog, and helping others do the same.

Both will be honored Thursday night at the Hearts and Heroes Gala in Manhattan.

Van Thach, 37, who lives in Bellerose, was first injured by an improvised explosive device, then again when a rocket exploded steps away, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury, blurred vision in his left eye and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

He received both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Canine Companions for Independence, a Medford, N.Y., group that matches people with disabilities with dogs, set him up with Liz last year.

“I take 21 pills a day just to survive,” he said. “If I drop my pills or my pill bottle, I’m not able to pick them up. I can give her the command, she can pick up the item off the ground, hold it in her mouth, not chew it or anything, and release it in my hand.”

Liz also grabs clothes, keys or anything else that he needs, he said.

He added, “It’s a life saver. I’ve gained more independence.”

Earlier this year, he traveled to Afghanistan with a group called Troops First Foundation, which runs Operation Proper Exit.

He told about 1,500 soldiers about his experiences, knowing many might be struggling with psychological and physical stresses or even suicidal thoughts.

“Seek help and move forward in your life, like I am,” he told them.

Thursday, Liz will be by his side at the gala.

“She’s my ticket in,” he said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Police seek man accidentally released a year early…

Cops are keeping an eye out for a Bronx man who was reportedly let out of Rikers Island a year before his released date.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

Music

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks more accessible than Animal…

Believe it or not, Avey Tare — the man in the mustachioed mask pictured here in the pool of blood — may have made the poppiest music of his career.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.