TRI-CITIES, WA - Kevin Doncaster is a Tri-Cities native and former Marine who founded War Hawks PTSD Service Dogs for veterans.
As a non-profit organization, War Hawks helps provide service dogs free of charge to veterans as well as first responders and some special trauma cases.
"With everything that went on in 2020, and quite frankly 2021, I want to flip the narrative that if we come together, there can be hope," says Doncaster.
Though based out of Oklahoma, Doncaster has services nationwide and is here visiting his hometown to expand his fundraising and collaboration networks with other dog trainers and behavior therapists. His own therapy dog, Lacey, helped him survive his darkest days.
Doncaster served for seven years in the Middle East. After suffering from depression, PTSD, and a failed suicide attempt, he decided to confront the issue of mental health in both himself and other veterans.
"If I would have taken my own life, I would not have given 31 dogs to veterans since 2019," says Doncaster.
Because of the staggering number of PTSD diagnoses and deaths by suicide amongst veterans, with Doncaster's organization, he desires to have at least one day in 2021 suicide free.
Doncaster's War Hawks Organization has served veterans of every race and ethnicity who have fought in wars like Afghanistan and even Vietnam. He wants to create a space where veterans can feel encouraged to talk about mental health, especially Latino and Native American veterans who have some of the highest numbers of suicide.
"Coming from a family where my father was Latino, I know in the culture it can be hard to talk about mental health, same in the Marines. If you hurt your knee and you talk about it, you get made fun of. But I want these veterans to know it's okay to not be okay," said Doncaster.
Doncaster encourages marines and other veterans to look at mental health as a way of repurposing their training.
"If you're in a battle and you need help, you call another soldier for help. Same with mental health, you just need to ask for help," said Doncaster.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health and you are worried about their safety, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.