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Gift of a lifetime

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Sgt. Brian Buckingham shakes hands after the emotional ceremony.
Fallen Soldiers March President Jim Retzke welcomed Sgt. Brian Buckingham and Glory to the stage.
Glory is a service dog who was trained in Florida and gifted to a Middle Tennessee Veteran. SABRINA GARRETT / The Wilson Post

Veterans Sgt. Brian Buckingham of Clarksville received the gift of a lifetime on Saturday, thanks to the Fallen Soldiers March, a nonprofit organization which helps our heroes.

Glory, a mobility and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) service dog, was gifted to Buckingham during an emotional ceremony at the Wilson County Veterans Plaza.

It was announced earlier this year that the Fallen Soldiers March was actively seeking a Middle Tennessee veteran who could benefit from having a service dog. Glory spent several months being trained by experts in Florida, which is not only time consuming - it is quite costly.

Service dogs cost $30,000 to train. At the completion of training, they are able to perform 60 to 120 tasks, such as turning on and off a light switch, as well as have a calming effect on their owners.

A very humble Buckingham, who completed 400 combat missions and logged 3,000 flight hours mostly under night-vision goggles, thanked the crowd for being there to support him. He also spoke candidly about PTSD and his faith in God.

"When you are gone 10 months out of the year it kind of takes a toll on you at some point. You wonder, 'At what point am I not coming home?'" he began.

"It is hard when you are told, 'We are sending four helicopters out and only expect one back.' What do you tell your brothers? You don't. It is another night. It is another day. God will carry you through, and that is what he did. He took us all the way through."

Buckingham said most military men and women do not realize the effect of war until they return home or start to slow down. "It is a lot of built-up burden and trauma. It is a rolodex of faces, bodies, blood and nightmares," he explained. "It doesn't go away. It haunts you. If you have been touched by war - it doesn't go away. You can only live with it and embrace it."

Although he suffers from PTSD, Buckingham said he would serve again if given the opportunity. The crowd was made up of friends, family members and several other veterans. "What I would not give to have slung some lead next to all of you and be by your side. I miss it so much."

He also encouraged those who are not familiar with PTSD or war wounds to look differently at veterans. "I hope that one day normality in life will return. I just ask that if anyone sees someone with a service dog, they not be judgmental," he said. "We are all just human beings trying to live what we've been through."

Buckingham said he looks forward to working with Glory and ended with a reading of scripture from Psalms 40.

"Even in our deepest pit, when we think we are in the bottom - we know God is there. We see God in the folks who are there for us," he concluded.

For more information about the Fallen Soldiers March visit www.fallensoldiersmarch.com.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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Brian Buckingham, Fallen Soldiers March, Glory, Jim Retzke, Lebanon, mental health, PTSD, service, service dog, soldier, veteran, veterans, Veterans Museum
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