Infantryman Charles VanDrunen entered the Army in 1971 as one man and returned home a different man. His service in Vietnam exposed him to the harsh and brutal conditions of war, jungle fighting and Agent Orange. In the years since, the battle for him has continued in a never-ending siege of flash backs, nightmares, anger and substance abuse. For years he did not understand what was happening to him until his wife, Kay, a veterans’ service officer for the Marine Corps League, urged him to seek help.
Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Charlie has been helped through counseling, therapy and medication. Because of his exposure to Agent Orange, Charlie has also battled prostate cancer and won. Through Pets for Vets, Charlie applied for a rescued animal and was introduced to Ace, a young Black Lab/Chow mix, who has become his constant companion. Ace was found as a stray, surrendered to the Calhoun County Animal Shelter in West Michigan and eventually was entered into the Pets for Vets program.
Charlie describes his relationship with Ace as the best therapy he could receive. Ace helps to keep him calm and centered. Constant companions, they enjoy walks through the woods or just being together. Charlie is now retired and lives in Wayland, MI with his wife and other dogs, Truman and Max.