Veterans’ Buddies brings man and animal together for holiday season

The holidays are a time to be with family, but not all family members are human. In Carter County, families are being born of another kind of companionship: man and animal.

Christopher Prince started the Veterans’ Buddies program roughly two years ago, in an effort to help his fellow veterans the best he could.

“My wife and I have always been animal lovers,” Prince said.

The program’s main purpose is to equip veterans with companion animals to facilitate their needs, especially those with PTSD.

“Even doctors do not have a complete definition of it,” he said. “We have found having an animal is a big help.”

The organization partners with the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter to provide these animals, dogs or cats, to veterans at no charge.

“These are companions who will show unconditional love,” Prince said.

Prince told the story of one veteran who said he had nightmares three or four times a week. When the organization took him to the shelter and got him a kitten, Prince said the frequency of his nightmares dropped to one or two a month.

Cost-free adoption is not the only service Veterans’ Buddies provides, however. They also offer food delivery services, called the Pet Pantry, in which Prince will get in his car and bring pet owners the dog or cat food they need.

Signing up for the Pantry program requires the person’s income be below a certain number.

Prince said out of the roughly 5,000 veterans in Carter County, roughly 540 of them are below the poverty line.

“A lot of cases, these veterans are 100 percent disabled,” Prince said. “These folks really need it.”

Prince said he wants to reach out to as many people in need as he can, saying these people are those who need programs like Buddies and the Pantry the most.

He said he is working towards a veterinary program as well, in order to assist with medical bills.

Prince said he sees the program primarily serving his fellow veterans in whatever way it can, constantly looking for ways to help out.

Those who are looking to sign up for the Buddies or Pantry program can contact Prince at 423-218-2159. He said the only necessary form for the Buddies program is a DD214, a discharge form that shows the person used to be in the military. He also said a VA card from the VA in Johnson City will also suffice.

“These are really good people,” Prince said of the members of his community. “We want to help them help themselves.”

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