Will Fisher - Couldn't Ask for Anything More

William Fisher, Jr., 35, is the son of a Marine, so when he turned 18, he says, “It was my place to go next. I was born to it; I grew up with it.” In fact, Will had already enlisted via the Delayed Entry Program, which allows someone to enlist and choose a future date to report for duty. 

Will and his service dog spending time together.So right after high school he began his Marine career. “I got off the bus [at Parris Island] and stepped right on the footprints.” The yellow footprints on the ground when recruits get off the bus represent the first steps a recruit takes in his journey to become a Marine. “Every Marine remembers the footprints,” he adds.

Being in the military was like being with family, Will says. Frequently, his team leaders had served with his father and watched him grow up. He spent the next eight years in the Marine Corps, and deployed throughout the world, including Panama, Kosovo, and Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; in total, he deployed nine times in 12 years.
In 2006, Will had fulfilled his commitment and chose to leave the Marine Corps. “I was ‘burnt out,’” he says, “and I wanted to take a break.” But that didn’t last long. Three months later, he enlisted again, but this time in the Army National Guard and was called to active duty under Title 10 of the United States Code. 

Will was deployed to Iraq again in 2009. During a mission he fell 40 feet from a ladder and landed standing up, with the weight of the fall on his right side. The talus bone in his ankle was crushed, and he was medevaced to Landstuhl, Germany. 
He spent three weeks in Germany while doctors tried to fix his ankle; if they could, he would return to his unit. However, he ended up having to return to the United States for treatment. “I hated being sent home and leaving my team, my ‘family,’” he says.

Will's service dog holding a door open for him to enter.For the next four years, he dealt with daily pain from his ankle in an attempt to keep his leg, but he eventually grew tired of all the pain. “I had to convince my surgeon into amputating my leg,” he notes, but once it was done, “I got my life back.” Free from pain, Will now had to learn how to walk with his new prosthesis. 

Will first learned of America’s VetDogs while undergoing rehabilitation therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His occupational therapist thought a service dog might prove helpful with some of his balance issues.  "I was told that I would be a good candidate because I had counterbalance issues when walking with gait, and was told that a service dog would be able to help, " says Fisher. "That's what got me interested in the VetDogs program."  In addition to balance and helping him walk a straight line, Lyla will open and close doors, retrieve dropped items, including his prosthetic leg. She has even been trained to pull his wheelchair to him if he falls. 

Today, Will serves as a volunteer firefighter in Anne Arundel County in Maryland, and gives back to his fellow veterans: He is active in SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba), which offers scuba training to injured service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to help facilitate their rehabilitation.