PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Using animals like dogs and horses for therapy when it comes to PTSD is fairly common, but there is a Vietnam veteran in Pinellas County who is using Birds of Prey.
“When I feel worthless they remind me that I have a purpose, they give me a reason to get up even on my bad days,” said Ria Warner.
Warner is married to a military veteran and also suffers from her own past trauma. She said when she started bonding with Birds of Prey, like Thunder the Bald Eagle, she felt like she had grown a pair of wings herself.
“They help me to identify little things before like an anxiety attack or depression would set in, so they’ll help you find those triggers before they get pulled,” said Warner.
Over the past seven years, Patrick Bradley has paired dozens of different species with more than 4,000 military veterans and their families.
“The raptors are apex predators, so are soldiers, number two, the raptors were hurt, so were soldiers, so they bonded quicker,” said Bradley.
All of the birds come from wildlife rehabilitation organizations. Their injuries deemed too severe to be released back into the wild.
“We don’t hand veterans right from the wild our animals, these birds have been vetted by us,” said Bradley.
Bradly credits the bald eagle for saving his own life after returning from Vietnam. He is proud that he has been able to share this therapy through the organization, Avian Veteran Alliance, bringing these majestic birds to people in need.
“Get lost in the moment, get lost in the bird, and they come back they are smiling, they are animated, they enjoy it,” said Bradley.
There is also a book about Bradley’s life entitled “The Eagle On My Arm,” written by Dava Guerin and Terry Bivens that will be available in October.