Source: My Central Jersey.com
Jeff Mullins is a resident of the Fords section of Woodbridge and vice president of operations for Rebuilding Warriors, a non-profit that provides highly trained and socialized service/companion dogs to honorably discharged veterans, police officers and first responders.
Mullins’ voyage with the armed forces began in 1977 as a 17-year-old Navy Seabee. “I loved every minute of it — I went to Spain, Puerto Rico, Russia, Alaska, Japan and Australia.” After brief stints as a civilian, he reenlisted in both 1999 and 2006.
“I was in training when 9/11 happened. I spent the next eight months at a Staten Island landfill going through the rubble, and hoping to find any body parts or something they could get DNA from.
“I worked in the emergency room at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. My first patient I had was Chemical Ali, who tried to kill all the Kurds with chemicals. He spoke perfect English and even told me how he had been to New Jersey,” Mullins says.
On May 6, Rebuilding Warriors will be holding its fourth annual fundraising event at the Headliner Night Club in Neptune.
“My last deployment was to Afghanistan. The morning we got into our camp in Kandahar, the sirens went off and rockets were shot at us. We slept in our body armor. It is the worst situation anyone could be in,” Mullins said as Zoey made eye contact with him. “Sometimes what I have seen and had to deal with I laugh and joke about it, but this stuff never goes away.”
Back home, Mullins noticed that something was not quite right. “I was snapping at my wife and she didn’t do anything to make me feel that way. I told her numerous times I can’t live like this; I would be better off dead.” He was honorably discharged with 100 percent disability, and diagnosed with a severe form of PTSD.
“Then, I rescued Zoey — a Bull/Terrier/Lab mix. There was this instant connection. One time, I was driving and losing my patience. I said a few choice words, and Zoey reached under my right arm and it took my mind off things. She is the most lovable dog I have ever had — and she is a barrel of fun.”
“She does sense when he is having a rough patch,” said Mullins’ wife, Nancy Sweeney Mullins, marketing director/secretary of Rebuilding Warriors. “Zoey just adores him. They are inseparable.”
Mullins explains, “I help pair up the veteran with the dog as well as presenting the dogs to those in need. All dogs are free of charge. We usually present between 15 to 16 a year.”
So, how is Mullins doing today?
“I still have a lot of issues. I still don’t sleep right. I have not talked about what has happened, and I probably never will either.
“But that is what she is for,” Mullins said as Zoey looked up — a connection where no words were needed in their exchange.
Rebuilding Warriors Fundraiser
Sun. May 6, 2-7 PM
The Headliner, 1401 Route 35, Neptune
$25 donation at the door
Service dog presentation 4PM
Donate Online: RebuildingWarriors.com