NICKI, United States Air Force

Paired with Piper

Age: 40

Rank: Master Sergeant

Served In: 3 tours in Iraq 

I grew up in Tennessee and enlisted in the Air Force as a way out of my small town. I got to see many parts of the United States and beyond including South Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Qatar, and England—where my youngest was born. In total, I’ve completed 20 years of service in the Air Force. Over the course of these years, I’ve taken on many roles becoming somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades in computer and server maintenance.

Following an incident in 2009 I began to develop the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. During my time with the Air Force I was deployed to Iraq three times. Additionally, I sustained a work-related injury when I was working on a vehicle of convoy and the turret fell on my head, contributing to short-term memory loss.

When I returned early from my last deployment in Iraq, my husband (also in the Air Force) and I were stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base. In Windsor, Missouri we have made a home on a quiet farm with our five children.  Life with PTSD and TBI has presented many challenges. One of the greatest limitations of PTSD is my loss of independence. I fear being alone—my home is about the only place that I feel safe and comfortable. I also struggle with a lack of drive, focus, balance, and comprehension on a day-to-day basis because of the combination of PTSD and TBI.

A common theme for those that suffer with PTSD is a weakening of relationships with other loved ones. Very rarely, I’m able to travel outside of my home due to extreme fear and anxiety, which takes its toll on the relationships with loved ones that don’t live as close. If there’s one thing I could share with others who know little about this disability or for family members of someone that struggles with it, it would be to try and have lots of patience and understanding, and to not take it personal—because it’s not.

I’m so excited for this new chapter with Piper.  She is very calming to me. I believe she will help me gain back my independence. I hate always having to drag one of my family members out to do things with me, but now I feel that I can do some of these things on my own—with Piper.  For those with PTSD and TBI I would definitely recommend doing research to find what you can do to help yourself overcome the challenges imposed by this disability. For me, Piper is part of this solution. With only one day in training with her I can already feel relief. I can already start to feel a difference. 

Piper Renee's Story:

Piper Renee is a one year old Boxer/Mix with a beautiful brindle coloring.  When we first evaluated Piper in the shelter for the Warriors' Best Friend program, initially we fell for her sweet personality and impressive ability to focus in a distracting environment. Since then Piper has continued to impress us each and every day with her smarts and caring ways.  She had a hard time fitting in with the other dogs at first with her shy nature but the pack quickly took her in.  Piper has made for a great addition to the WBF program! 

Team Updates

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Nicki has been paired with Piper. During this interview Nicki tells us a little bit about herself and the time she served in the military. She also gives us some of her thoughts about PTSD.Read More >>
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Piper has been paired with her soldier Nicki. In this video they are getting to know each other while Piper learns to take her "come" command from Nicki. She is doing a great job!Read More >>