Six honorees that are leaving their mark on Jefferson City
While it may only take one person to make a difference, Jefferson City Magazine recognizes six individuals and entities that are making substantial impacts in the lives of many. With their generosity and diligence, this group makes it their mission to put others before themselves, despite their already busy schedules. Not only have they given back to their community with enthusiasm, they are a privilege to work with and lead others by example. With this recognition, this set of six can now join their fellow Impact JCMO honorees in making Jefferson City a more beautiful place to live.
After serving the military through the Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jason Howe struggled reintegrating into society. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder so much so that he turned to seclusion, painkillers, and hard drugs to cope. That’s until a little boxer-pit bull mix named Sobee entered his life. The pup was just two days away from being euthanized at a Georgia animal shelter before she was rescued by K9s on The. Front Line. While Sobee and Jason went through the vigorous K9s on The Front Line’s service dog program, the two developed an inseparable bond.
“People usually ask me, ‘Who saved who?’” Jason says. “Immediately, she saved me. I didn’t save her.”
Sobee and K9s on The Front Line opened Jason’s eyes and gave him a new purpose in life — helping veterans who felt the way he once did. As the founder of the nonprofit’s Missouri chapter, Jason inspires a second chance at life to local veterans and dogs. Based in Maine, K9son the Front Line helps pair certified, trained service dogs with veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or traumatic brain injuries. Since Jason started the Missouri chapter in Jefferson City in 2018, the program has expanded all the way to St. Louis. Within the last four years, the nonprofit has helped about 130 veterans and received several state recognitions. While veterans can fi ll out applications to join K9s on The Front Line at k9sonthefrontline.org, Jason also has a chance to meet with applicants, hear their stories, and learn their needs. When he believes a veteran would benefit from the program, he looks for a shelter dog with a personality that would be a good fi t for the veterans. The pair then endure a 22-week training program at the VFWs in St. Martins and O’Fallon. During this critical training period, veterans and dogs bond as they learn commands and experience real-life activities like walking through stores or attending sporting events together.
“When you hand that dog over to the veteran, the bond immediately starts, and they learn from each other and grow with each other from day one.”
Throughout training, the dogs become attuned to their handlers’ needs and learn how to best support them.
“This program is about giving hope and purpose back to the veterans and to get them out of the funk. It helps us focus on the good instead of the bad all the time. The dog is there to help you through that by reducing the negative thoughts that are going through your mind all the time.”
As a veteran who has struggled following deployment, Jason uses his own experiences to connect with veterans coming through the program.
“I am living proof that they can do it if they put their minds to it. You don’t have to be a statistic, and you can change.”
While the program is free to veterans, it can cost up to $3,500 to pair a service dog with a veteran and train them. Generous donations have become essential to sustaining the nonprofit. Donations or volunteer inquiries can be sent through k9sonthefrontline.org.