GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) Battle Buddies of the Carolinas is an organization that pairs veterans with service dogs. During a Swamp Rabbits game, they introduced one Upstate veteran to a friend of a lifetime.

It was the beginning of a special companionship. 

Battle Buddies of the Carolinas said dogs are instrumental in helping veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress. 

“It can be life-changing for them,” said Jo Anne Creed, Battle Buddies co-founder. “Almost like using a cane or having medication, it’s a proven recovery tool.”

The organization was co-founded by Creed and her husband, a marine veteran. They said personal experiences showed them the need for service dogs. 

“My own husband who is a marine veteran has suffered a lot of physical injuries and has a service dog who helps him a lot with his mobility issues so from a personal standpoint, I know it works and I’ve seen what a difference it makes in their lives,” said Creed.   

This season is the first time the Greenville Swamp Rabbits are playing a role in the pairing of a veteran with a service dog by sponsoring Deke, a 10 1/2-month-old golden retriever.

“A key part for us with Battle Buddies is knowing that this isn’t a one-time piece where they get paired and have the moment tonight,” said Tim Vieira, vice president of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. “This is the start of a relationship that hopefully makes that impact in that veteran’s life to continue to see them grow and succeed.”  

Swamp Rabbits fans witnessed the pairing of Sgt. Jonas Piester with his new counterpart, Deke. There alongside them were Deke’s two trainers, a sister duo from Clemson University studying to be veterinarians. 

“We have Deke for 12-14 months and during that time we’re responsible for his basic training and socialization which involves taking him to any and all places that we go, so he’s used to any environment once he goes to his veteran,” said Victoria Mueller, Deke’s trainer.

Sgt. Piester told us he knows the bond with a service dog is important for veterans. 

“So they’re never totally alone and they always have somebody by their side,” said Piester.

He said Battle Buddies has provided exactly that for him.

“It’s helped me regain my life again,” said Piester.