Disabled Knoxville Air Force veteran receives service dog
during unique ceremony
LOUDON (WATE) – You’ve heard the phrases “passing
the buck” or “passing the torch,” but what about “passing of the
leash?” It’s a unique ceremony involving a veteran and a service
There was a roar in the room as
SMSgt. Diana Trevino walked in, everyone inside the sanctuary at
Tellico Village Community Church here for her and service dog
Valor. The golden retriever greeted his trainers and then his
leash was passed from volunteers of Smoky Mountain Service Dogs
to SMSgt. Trevino.
“I knew that I needed help, emotional
stability and physical stability,” she said.
“She’s got her battle buddy,” added Mike
Kitchens with Smoky Mountain Service Dogs.
The disabled veteran enlisted in the Air Force
at just 17 years old and ultimately served our country for 26
years. The last two years, Valor has been training to help her.
“The dog has probably 1,500 to 1,800 hours of
training and when we present a dog like Valor to a veteran, it
represents a community investment,” said Kitchens.
“He’s given me a foundation, a strength that’s
intangible. There are no words to describe it,” added Trevino.
Valor, and other service dogs with the
organization, are given to veterans free of charge. This golden
retriever’s tasks are to provide balance, stability, and pick up
anything that has been dropped.
“It’s not until we’ve grown in our
relationship or team that I’ve begun to realize what he means to
me,” added Trevino.
She says mornings are the hardest, but this
entire experience has meant that her prayers have been answered.
“I hope I’m as much of a blessing to him, as
he is to me,” she said.
Trevino is not only the 16th veteran, but
she’s the first female veteran to receive a service dog with
If you’d like to donate or volunteer with
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, you can learn more by clicking