Canine Companions Wounded Veteran Assistance Dog Teams Compete in 2016 Invictus Games

Battle Buddies On and Off the Field

SANTA ROSA, Calif., May 9, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Stefan LeRoy (US Army Ret.) and Gabe Martinez (US Marines Ret.) are competing in the 2016 Invictus Games in Florida. Both veterans are bilateral amputees as a result of injuries sustained during their military service. They have battle buddies both on and off the field, with four legs and a tail!

Off the field, LeRoy works with Canine Companions for Independence Service Dog Knoxville, and Martinez with Service Dog Wonka. Both canines assist them in daily activities to enhance their independence, retrieving prostheses and opening doors. Knoxville and Wonka have been trained in 40 commands including turning on lights, carrying items and retrieving items such as credit cards or assistive devices. Their injuries haven't held them back and both veterans will both be competing in track and field events this week.  In addition, LeRoy, 25, will be participating in cycling, swimming and indoor rowing at the games. 

"Wonka is a Marine dog, he's all about mission accomplishment" says Martinez, 27, from Colorado. "Once you have a good strong partnership with an assistance dog like Wonka, everything changes. I was injured on Thanksgiving and walking by February, but I still need Wonka to help."

The Invictus Games run May 8-12 in Orlando, Florida and bring together wounded service members from 15 countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Paralympic-style games feature athletes competing in more than 10 events. Service Dog Knoxville will be cheering on LeRoy from the sidelines.

LeRoy lost both his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device while he was carrying an injured soldier to a medevac helicopter. Since receiving Knoxville, LeRoy has less to worry about with and without his prostheses. "It's amazing how much he has impacted my life, "LeRoy says. "Knoxville has impacted the lives of everyone he meets, and it's wonderful to have his help and support."

For over 40 years, Canine Companions for Independence has been enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing more than 5,000 assistance dogs with program graduates, including over 140 dogs with wounded military veterans and more than 1,500 dogs with children, entirely free of charge.  

Photos accompanying this release are available at:

Gabe Wonka retrieve low res Stefan and Knoxville Low Res

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