Nonprofit pairs veterans suffering from military traumas with service animals

Danny Onvimala, battle buddy Private go through life together

SAN ANTONIO – Danny Onvimala, an Army veteran of 20 years and his battle buddy Private, a black Labrador retriever, are inseparable.

Onvimala suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury following explosions in Iraq.

Private was introduced to Onvimala through K9′s for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that pairs trained service animals with veterans suffering from PTSD among other military trauma.

Before Private, Onvimala spent five years after his retirement from the Army away from the outside world.

“Before I received private, I spent five years after my retirement isolated, in my garage too anxiety filled, too afraid, too angry, to actually leave my house,” he said. “Once I was paired with Private, the day I was paired I cried hard. Since I’ve had Private, I never feel alone anymore.”

Now, the two can’t live without each other as Private helps Onvimala reach his goals, including one he hasn’t reached in years.

“He forces me to get out of my comfort zone, to set a goal and achieve that goal. One of my latest goals was to go to the lake, I have not been to any water activity in over a decade. I was actually able to take my three kids and Private to the lake. Since Private has been with me I can’t see my life without him, because he is a part of me,” Onvimala said.

Onvimala is now a warrior trainer at the nonprofit and mentors veterans and teaches them how to depend on their service dogs.

His message to other military veterans is: you are not alone.

“At one point I thought I was alone. Once I met K9′s for Warriors I got involved in the organization and I found out that I’m not, so I would just tell every veteran, do not give up, K9′s for Warriors is here and other organizations are here, but you are not alone, he said.

Onvimala and Private’s journey, however, is just beginning.

“At the end of the day, he is my battle buddy. He takes care of me and I take care of him,” Onvimala said.

If you or someone you know is suffering from military trauma and would like to go through the process of being paired with a service dog, or are looking for resources to help you, you can visit by clicking here.

About the Author

Katelyn Silva started her career at KSAT 12 in May 2022 as a producer trainee and is now a Good Morning San Antonio weekend producer. Katelyn is a San Antonio native and earned a communications degree from Texas A&M-San Antonio. Katelyn likes to practice yoga, bullet journal and hang out with family and friends in her free time.

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