Marine Corps combat veteran knows “a pet can change your life”

Marine Corps combat veteran knows how "a pet can change your life"

Bill is a Marine Corps combat veteran who started his life anew by acting on his belief that “a pet can change your life.” After serving in some of the most dangerous places on the planet he made – and kept – a vow to give a shelter dog the best home possible thanks to our partnership with the Baltimore Humane Society.

Semper Fi 

I’m in my sophomore year attending University of Maryland Baltimore County for computer science, full time, using my GI Bill.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 for Motor Transportation as a wrecker operator. I went to Parris Island for recruit training and went on to my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) school. I trained in convoy operations and also went to mountain warfare training in Bridgeport, California prior to my deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010.

My platoon was selected from our company to specifically provide direct support to infantry units throughout Marjah, and meant we were able to see bases and countryside from nearly the Pakistan border, all the way to mid-Nimroz Province, Sangin, and Buji valleys north of us. This led to a much higher operation tempo, as well as coming into contact with Taliban [and] IEDs. Marine Corps combat veteran knows how "a pet can change your life"

Luckily no one was severely injured, and it was a miserable yet positive and nearly fun experience.

I spent the remainder of my time until the end of 2012 training junior Marines for an upcoming deployment and conducting convoy operations when I decided to end my time with the Marine Corps.

Winter training for desert warfare 

There are so many great memories I had from my time in.

One particularly funny instance was when we were in Quantico Viper – the Marine Corps’ name for a pre-deployment training exercise to ready us for desert combat operations – just before the holidays.

This was definitely contradicted – when we were the platoon with the only bus driver that would not brave the snow storm, trapping us for another 36 hours. We were all pretty upset as we only wanted to get home to our families as soon as we could, but it turned out to be a great bonding experience for everybody as we dug our forts in the record-breaking snowfall for Virginia. It seemed like it was eight feet… probably not the best for desert ops training.

Marine Corps combat veteran decides a dog is “long overdue”

I have always had dogs growing up. Between the military, and apartment rental living alone, I knew it would be irresponsible to keep a dog around, along with my schedule being a problem.

Since meeting my girlfriend two years ago I had realized our schedules were fairly complementary and a dog would not have to be alone too long.

It was long overdue.

We had been to the shelter before, entertaining the idea, but I somehow could not commit as I wanted to make the best home possible for a dog. When I saw Lima – and met her in person and played with her for a bit – I knew I had to give her a home.

Once I saw a tag on the chainlink of the few dogs’ pens at Baltimore Humane Society for Pets for Patriots, I became curious what the program was. I asked a volunteer what the program was, and they said it was a way to connect pets with veterans. I went home, saw the specifics and knew with the help Pets for Patriots provided I could give Lima the best home I possibly could, no questions asked.

The financial relief for the veterinary visit, and the up front costs of food and toys was tremendous – and meant Lima was coming home! I pulled her name from phonetic alphabet and my company in boot camp at Parris Island.

‘L’ is for Lima, and for love

Lima was very neutral about everything when we first brought her home. She was so hesitant, as she had been in the shelter for a pretty good length of time. It took her about three days to show me her belly and start showing affection.

An animal that is desperate for a home and will be there no matter what, that depends on you for all of its needs, is its own reward once it sees some kindness. It’s incredible every time I come home and let Lima out into her yard because she can’t stand the little time we spend apart.

Marine Corps combat veteran knows "a pet can change your life"

Adoption through Pets for Patriots makes it less of a burden on the veteran and saves an innocent animal from an intimidating shelter. I don’t think it gets any better than that and couldn’t recommend Pets for Patriots enough.

So far I’ve taken her on long walks – she loves running, fetch, and just about anything but a bath. She’s very smart, house broken, and loves having her own home. We’re still working on socializing with other dogs, as she’s shy and doesn’t do so well with social cues from other strange dogs, but she’s getting there.

She turned into a bit of a challenge, as she definitely had some anxiety and a little fear of other dogs, but is getting better all the time. Now she has a fenced in yard, and we get to spend tons of time together. She went from crate training to now sleeping right next to the bed on a small one of her own.

I can’t imagine a day without Lima anymore, as I take her on road trips and almost everywhere else I go.

Enjoying the everyday life, every day

Lima has plenty of hilarious habits, and it doesn’t hurt her case that she is incredibly clean and always does her business outside. Every time someone leaves the house she runs to the window.

She sometimes tries to climb into my lap from the backseat when I’m driving, and she can’t get enough of peanut butter. She even sits and volunteers a paw to shake every time someone opens a bag that could – maybe – might be food.

I would absolutely recommend this program to other veterans and already have to some of my friends. If you miss the camaraderie from active duty, or the difficult times you had before, a pet can change your life.


  1. Kathy

    Thank you so much for your service. I pray God will bless you in ways that you will know it comes from him. Thank you too for saving Lima. I have adopted many shelter dogs and it seems they somehow are the best! One of my adopted dogs was a Dutch Shepard mix that I named Greta. I loved her and learned so much from her. She was food aggressive when I brought her home, but we made it through that obstacle and she became my close ally. I also have a horse and keep him at a secluded area, but with Greta with me I always felt safe. Lima looks very much like Greta. Greta is gone now but I have a wonderful Lab/Border Collie mix who is the most affable dog ever and smart! She gets along with anyone or any animal. God bless you and Lima.

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  4. John A. Smaldone


    Thanks for your service Bro, I am an Air Force Vet and adopted a 1yr 8 month old male named Copper, has been a wonderful experience and Beth Zimmerman is the greatest, we appreciate her service to us!

    Lima is a beautiful pet and your story is a happy one to hear, I know I speak for others when I say, I appreciate you sharing this story with all of us. Sounds like you have made the best friend you could ever make.

    Stay safe Bro and again, thank you for your service to our great nation!

    God speed to you,

    John Smaldone

  5. Carol

    Thank you for your service and for saving Lima❤️❤️

  6. Valerie Cintron

    That is so wonderful. Thank you for your service, and for adopting Lima and giving her the love and life she deserves. God Bless you.

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