Sam joined the New York National Guard shortly after the September 11th attacks. Trained as a sniper, Sam quickly rose to the rank of sergeant as a member of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.

In October 2004, Sam deployed with his guard unit to Iraq for a year-long combat tour. On July 4th, 2005, Sam was wounded in an IED blast while on patrol just outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad. Near death, Sam’s life was saved by the quick reactions of his platoon medic who stabilized his wounds and evacuated him for further care.

Within days of his injury, Sam underwent more than 40 surgeries. The severe blast wounds Sam sustained left him with limited left arm mobility and no use of his left hand, which was eventually amputated in December of 2008.

“The VA gave me what I needed to survive. Canine Companions for Independence gave me what I need to live,” explains Sam.

In February 2010 Canine Companions gave Sam Service Dog Gillian. Gillian not only acts as his missing left hand, but in so doing, is saving his right hand.

“All the health problems I have now are because of excessive wear and tear of my right hand, arm and shoulder. Anything that Gillian can do for me, means less exertion on my right side,” Sam shares.

Gillian helps Sam by picking up items, opening doors and flipping light switches. And so much more.

“Gillian is my teammate. She holds me accountable. She’ll give me 100% all the time, and I have to take care of her. I have to stay active and make sure she gets daily exercise. I have to get out of bed everyday and make sure she eats,” Sam continues. “She’s there for me if I need her to pick up my keys, or if I just need to pet her to feel better. She loves to work hard, but she also knows when I just need to take a break and relax.”

Warrior 100K
Sam Cila, far left, chats with former President George W. Bush on a stop during the 3-day bike ride.

This week, Sam had the incredible opportunity to spend a few days mountain biking in west Texas. While Gillian didn’t accompany Sam on his recent trip to Texas, Sam was joined by former President George W. Bush, who was the host of the Warrior 100k Mountain Bike ride at Lajitas Golf Resort near Big Bend State Park.  The event was held in honor of the warriors that suffered severe injuries during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Fourteen wounded warriors participated, along with Lance Armstrong, on the three-day bike ride.

Sam is also leading the newly formed Long Island volunteer chapter for Canine Companions and has been a great spokesperson, spreading the word on how assistance dogs can help wounded veterans live independently. Learn more about the Wounded Veteran Initiative and read more great veteran stories.

5 thoughts on “Wounded Veteran’s Teammate, Service Dog Gillian

  1. Recently an Iraq Vet came up to me and told me he had observed my Service Dog throughout the day and he was so happy to see a dog doing such an important job, in safety! His description of how his unit relied on and protected military dogs was very moving!
    I have run into a difficult situation, and hope to get suggestions; my Service Dog is only 18 mo old, but he has 15 commands (10 verbal, 5 verbal & hand signal). I boss him around most of the time, and if he tells me to sit…I sit! (b/4 I got him, I fell on the ground or floor about once a week)
    The dog is joyfully accepted everywhere, with everyone….except by a beloved relative!
    He refuses to be in public with me if I have the dog with me. (he says it is embarrassing, as people might think the dog is a sham, or because several months ago, he had to repeatedly be given the sign to lay down during a 2 hour lunch)
    He will drive off from a Resturant parking lot leaving the whole family upset if I have the dog. He has heard business owners say, my assistance dog is “the best trained service dog, they have had” in their resturant, doctor’s office, store or airline.
    Ironically, he says he is a great dog & the dog is welcome at his home, but he has declared a “boundary,” and he wants me to use a walker in public & leave the dog home if he is there…
    I say, my Doctors insist I have the dog with me….my relative says “it’s me or the dog”
    Any suggestions?

  2. wow this only means that if we treated animals kindly they will love s us back so dearly.this is such a moving article.thanks for the share.cheers sam! long live gillian!

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