Joan Nold, an honorary Commander with the 388th Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, has a special place in her heart for first responders and our nation’s military. After reading Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, and later watching its movie adaptation, in which retired Navy Seal Luttrell recounts his most dangerous mission that cost the lives of all the men on his team with himself as the only survivor, she felt compelled to raise money for the Lone Survivor Foundation. The Lone Survivor Foundation seeks to bridge the gaps between veterans and their families by offering a peaceful ranch location for them to reconnect and strategize how to move ahead in their lives and marriages.
She raised the money by auctioning off a Labrador puppy who was then donated back and trained to be a veteran’s service dog. In doing so, Nold discovered a veteran need she wanted to fill. Soon after, she co-founded Labs For Liberty with her husband, Roger Nold, and son, Jacob. The company is young, founded just two years ago this December, but already they’ve partnered fifty veterans with the perfect service dog.
“Seeing our dog recipients succeed in their personal and professional lives is our main goal,” says Jacob. “We see our service dogs as empowerment tools and we want our veterans to become better fathers, mothers, spouses, business leaders, community leaders and peers because of our service.”
Labs For Liberty takes applications from veterans across the nation. Each applicant’s needs are identified and a puppy is selected to receive the specific training to match their future owner’s unique circumstances and requirements. The pup is also trained in basic obedience, commands and service tasks. Before allowing the animals to progress further they must pass the AKC Good Citizen Test qualifications and Public Access test.
Throughout the process, the veterans are kept in the loop about their pup, the progress they’re making, and given a placement date that they can look forward to with anticipation. When the dog is ready, the recipient is brought to Liberty Outpost in Utah to train with the animal. After this is completed, lifelong support is provided to the pair. The entire process can take anywhere from sixteen to twenty-four months depending on the dog and the veteran’s needs.
The staff is entirely volunteer. This helps stretch donations to cover the extensive costs of procuring a Labrador from Hunters Point Kennels in Iowa and putting it through the rigorous training regimen. As stated in Labs for Liberty’s company model, the Labrador breed was chosen specifically and the individuals are bred to be “calm, intelligent, patient, obedient, and devoted. The dogs are also bred for their natural hunting ability. These service dogs’ primary focus must be their veteran and the tasks they perform for that veteran. They will also be capable of serving as a hunting companion to those veterans who find healing through hunting and outdoor activities” (Labs For Liberty.org, Our Model). The animals are given free of charge to veterans.
Jacob Nold believes, “the veteran community is not underprivileged – we aren’t doing what we do because we feel bad for veterans. We do what we do because we believe in the power and asset that the veteran community is. We believe in serving these individuals because they have served for us, and together, civilians and veterans can build greatness in future generations.”
The ultimate and immediate goal of Labs For Liberty is to save lives. “With 22 veteran suicides per day and the large number of veterans who would benefit from a service dog, we believe custom training a dog that can also be an outdoors companion allows us to better serve our veterans.” (Labs For Liberty.org, Our Model).