Wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., will soon receive the love of a three-legged therapy dog named Jack and several 250 foot-long scrolls signed with good wishes.
Jack and his owner, Richard Gliebe, a Vietnam Marine veteran, will stop in Payson at the American Legion from 10 a.m. until around 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20.
The public is invited to stop by and write well wishes to soldiers on the paper scroll.
"I remember what Vietnam era veterans went through and how they were reviled when they returned home from duty," said Gliebe. "I don't want anyone to be forgotten and neglected like that again."
Jack, a wolf-shepherd mix, started out his life with four good legs.
His left front leg was mangled when he fell out of a pickup truck on the freeway. Members of Hopalong Animal Rescue paid for Jack's surgery and taught him how to walk again when his leg could not be saved.
Dick Gliebe, who now calls himself the "guy on the end of the leash," adopted Jack.
"I have always had dogs, but Jack really changed my life," said Gliebe, who has operated farms and ranches in California and Arizona.
Jack's instinctive empathy for those hurt or depressed made Gliebe think about ways the two of them could volunteer.
Gliebe and Jack decided to tour the Southwest in 2002. During an extended stay in Utah, Jack worked as a therapy dog in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
The 100-pound dog is full of energy, yet safe and gentle with everyone, Gliebe said.
One day, Jack caught the attention of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
"There are so many amputees coming home and a big strong dog like Jack, who has been through injury and rehabilitation himself, really inspires our veterans and so many others," Gliebe said he told Hatch's staff.
Plans were made for Jack to visit Walter Reed Medical Center and Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas in 2007.
Gail Bensen and several of her friends in the American Legion and Auxiliary met Gliebe and his dog at the American Legion in Flagstaff. They were impressed.
According an article in the Arizona Daily Sun, Gliebe and Jack's next stop on the way to Walter Reed was Albuquerque, N.M. Then, they decided to accept the Payson American Legion's invitation to stop here and gather signatures.
"This guy is so dedicated," Bensen said. "From just (Gliebe's) thought of ‘How can I help?', this has snowballed into a magnificent thing."
Everyone is welcome to send their messages to the patients.