NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla.- As we honor people who fought for our country, a Southwest Florida organization hopes horses will help heal a veteran. In a story you'll see only on WINK, we show you how one animals is comforting a veteran still dealing with the stress of war.
"To be honest, I never thought I'd be shot to where I would live."
For Bobby Miniaci the images of his time serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, still haunt him.
"Driving down the street, if I see something that reminds me of driving down the street in Iraq it's immediate, it's not something where you go 'oh no,' it physically stops me," said Miniaci.
He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2007, which ultimately ended his military career.
"I went from having a great job, to kind of having a crap life."
But the Miles of Smiles Foundation, is giving Bobby, a single dad, a new chance at life, using equine therapy.
"I wasn't exactly sure what they were going to do the closer I got to them, whether he was going to run away or come to me."
He usually watches Marshall from outside the arena, but WINK was there as the former Staff Sgt. put his trust in Marshall.
"Today, I feel better than I did yesterday, and I'm a lot more optimistic than I was yesterday," Miniaci.
The Miles of Smiles ranch was started by Gail and Keith Doxie, in memory of their son, Miles. He was killed in a car accident two weeks before he was set to leave for training in the Airforce.
"Marshall is his horse, we struggled to find meaning out of his death, and we felt by putting veterans to work, we could help veterans in the future," said Owner Gail Doxie.
Horses are used because they often respond to situations similar to humans. The therapy gives veterans like Bobby, a boost of confidence and hope, in a serene environment.
"They've already helped me so much, I don't even think they know."
Bobby received a Purple Heart for being wounded while in combat. The Doxie family used their savings and retirement money to fund the ranch. The ranch is free to all veterans, the ranch takes Tricare Insurance, with no deductible For more information about therapy, you can contact Gail at 239-206-3371. For information about the ranch, you can contact Keith Doxie at 239-851-0621, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.milesranch.org, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/milesranch They also are looking for volunteers, donations of supplies or monetary donations.