Families Helping Heroes inaugural event supports families of veterans

TEQUESTA, Fla.

An event Saturday aimed to draw attention to the serious challenges that so many service men and women face when they come home from overseas.

For many of them, their service is finished, but their inner battle is far from over.

Local veteran help organizations, The Renewal Coalition and C.A.M.O, say this year more than 30,000 American troops could return home.

Too many, they say, will head straight to their local V-A or hospital to begin treatment for injuries or PTSD.

That's why the organizations teamed together to make recovery as bearable as possible.

The Renewal Coalition, C.A.M.O, and Good Shepard Elementary School hosted the inaugural Families Helping Heroes Festival Saturday.

It was an effort to give veteran's a fun way to spend time with their families, with food trucks, music, military demonstrations and activities for kids.

It was also a chance for the organizations to make contact with veterans and offer their services.

After more than ten years as a marine overseas, Jedediah Vermillion returned home from his final tour with major injuries.

"I was hit by an IED with homemade explosives," Vermillion explained.

He suffered both physical and emotional injuries, some of which he is still recovering from.

"The challenges that I was facing was being in public again, being around people, getting up and down stairs sometimes," Vermillion listed.

Vermillion is one of several people who benefit from C.A.M.O, or Canines Assisting Military Operators.

C.A.M.O gave Vermillion his service dog, Bolt. Bolt was selected as a rescue dog, then trained to be a service dog.

"It's life changing to see what these dogs can do for somebody," C.A.M.O founder, Casey DeGeorge, said.

C.A.M.O trains the dogs to be at their owner's side, pick up items they drop, turn lights on and off and do anything an injured vet may need help with.

"The most important thing was when I fell, he gets underneath me and he licks me to make sure I'm okay and then he'll pick me up," Vermillion explained.

Vermillion says Bolt also helps with the emotional stresses. "Just so many days I just wanted to stay in the chair. Now I have Bolt to go out with."

It's still a long road to a full recovery for Vermillion, but he says he's thankful to have a loyal companion along the way.

"Other than a marine, there's nothing like having a service dog."

C.A.M.O has partnered 5 service dogs with injured veterans over the last three years. They plan to match three more dogs to veterans in the next month.

The Renewal Coalition provides a relaxing family retreat for military families when service men or women return from overseas.

Good Shepard Elementary School will be using proceeds from the festival to create a patriot scholarship for children of local service members.

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