Around the neighborhood, dogs are sometimes as well known as their owners.
If you see a handsome boxer working as a service dog in the vicinity of Chapman’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law, that’s probably Tank. The man with him is Juan Valdez, a retired Marine who entered law school last fall, 12 years after being seriously wounded in a sniper attack in Iraq.
Tank helps Valdez manage lingering symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and alerts him to sounds such as doorbells that Valdez’s damaged hearing doesn’t register. Tank even joined Valdez at commencement when he graduated from UC San Diego and is a nearconstant companion on the journey that has brought Valdez to law school and a role as an advocate for veterans and others.
“I like standing up for people,” said Valdez, whose interests include politics. “I joined the Marine Corps for altruistic ideals, and I still carry those with me. I like the idea of standing up for the defenseless.”
Valdez was awarded a Purple Heart after the 2006 attack and eventually recovered from his injuries enough to return to Iraq and serve in Afghanistan before retiring with the rank of sergeant in 2013.
He pursued his education under the GI Bill, attending community college before transferring to UCSD. His legal education is being paid for by Veterans vocational rehabilitation benefits. But in addition to the GI Bill, former service members who are pursuing their education at Chapman can receive benefits and support through the University’s Veterans Resource Center.
Valdez expects Tank to be at his side when he is an attorney, possibly in politics. (Valdez has served as a military legislative intern to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.) He also has worked for veterans locally as a volunteer for the nonprofit Veterans Legal Institute. Perhaps Tank will even join him in a courtroom someday.
“If I’m a prosecutor, maybe I’ll put Tank up there with the witnesses to help calm them,” Valdez said.