If you told me two years ago that I would be where I am today, I would have laughed. I am a US Army veteran and I have PTSD. Something as mundane as walking into a drug store and asking one of the employees a question would have me in a cold sweat, heart pounding, and stuttering. Yes, stuttering.
In June 2012, I was partnered with a service dog. Chauncey has changed my life. In the year that followed, I was invited to participate in many events. I have spoken to civic groups and fundraisers. I have attended rallies to spread awareness of what service dogs can do for veterans with PTSD. In July 2013 I was invited to speak at a fundraiser for K9s for Warriors in Nashville, Tennessee. I hadn’t felt so alive and invigorated as I did when I was on that stage speaking about something so near and dear to me. It was that day, that specific incident that emboldened me to take the steps I would need to take to become a professional speaker. In August 2013, I joined Memphis Advanced Toastmasters. In the last five months, I have completed my Competent Communicator and I am very close to completing my Competent Leader. My goal is to achieve my Distinguished Toastmaster by August 2015. I have competed in the Humorous Speech contest and made all the way to District, where I placed third.
Looking back, I can’t imagine life without Chauncey and my Toastmasters family. You don’t have to yearn to be a professional speaker to benefit from Toastmasters. The camaraderie, confidence, and leadership skills you will gain are something you will not find anywhere else. K9s for Warriors and Memphis Advanced Toastmasters have changed my life. One has given me a mission and the other is giving me the means and opportunity to fulfill it.