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Julie Kirk & Mal – Stories About Veterans & Service Dogs

by | Jan 10, 2023

Vietnam-era veteran Julie Kirk

Vietnam-era veteran Julie Kirk joined the Army at age 18. She trained as a medic and worked on the surgical floor of the hospital at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri taking care of injured soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Several months into her service, Julie was sexually assaulted. She suffered an emotional collapse and was honorably discharged. It is a secret she held for thirty years before finally confiding in her counselor. That was the beginning of her healing process. A lasting transformation took place when she was partnered with her service dog Mal through Operation Freedom Paws.


The Heal series of videos were done as a multi-media project by artist Vicki Topaz in partnership with Operation Freedom Paws. That chronicles the healing journeys of veterans living with post-traumatic stress and other disabilities who are seeking to cope day-to-day with the help of their highly trained service dogs. HEAL! Illustrates how service dogs empower veterans by helping them find a “new normal” as they adjust to life after service.

22 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day. This statistic does not include servicewomen that have taken their lives.

The Mission:

• Shed light on the invisible wounds of PTS
• Help other Vets learn about service dogs
• Create awareness in our communities
• Build engagement with Vets and non-Vets