Veteran Sheepdogs of America

Army veteran Keith Francis, left, and Air Force veteran Bob Heriford talk over drinks while enjoying the launch party for Veteran Sheepdogs of America, a new non-profit organization aimed at helping veterans. Heriford's service dog, Barron, was sitting at their feet. (David Bitton/The Gazette)

Veterans helping veterans.

That’s the goal for Tony Archer and Joshua Hosler, who launched the non-profit Veteran Sheepdogs of America last year to support veterans and hold Veterans Affairs and elected representatives accountable.

The organization also works to inform its members about federal, state and key local legislation that impacts their lives.

It is this hyper focus on legislation impacting veteran along with Veterans Affairs reform and accountability that sets this organization apart.

Other key focuses for the organization include getting veterans outside – like on hunting and fishing trips – and providing financial grants for service dogs.

Archer retired as a command sergeant major from Fort Carson in 2011. Since retiring, he has been committed to helping veterans. He has worked as a service officer in Colorado for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a senior national service officer for the Wounded Warrior Project and was the senior military and veterans liaison for Colorado Springs republican Congressman Doug Lamborn.

During last month's interview, Archer mentioned there were more than 150 pieces of legislation between senate, house and Veterans Affairs committees.

Archer wants to help educate veterans about legislation that impacts their livelihoods.

“So what we are looking to do … we’re not going to lobby … we will advocate and endorse legislation. What we want to do for our members is … if something is sitting in a committee, we would poll the committee members on whether or not to support it and why.

“Get that information to our members and then our members can make the decision on whether or not they need to make a phone call or something like that.

Late last month the organization held its launch party at a local distillery. About two dozen people attended. The organization is open to military personnel of all eras. Find more information by visiting veteransheepdogsofamerica.org or find the on Facebook. The organization is hoping to grow nationally.

“We are still slowly moving and gaining ground and membership,” Archer said. “(We’re) getting out to events to get new members and educate folks.”

Army veteran Keith Francis and Air Force veteran Bob Heriford sat across from one another, joking and telling stories while enjoying each other’s company during the launch party as Heriford’s dog and service animal, Barron, sat near their feet.

Heriford served from 1978 to 1998 and said all his years on a flight line have impacted his hearing, which has caused balance issues.

Barron helps with balance and PTSD, Heriford said.

“He is a great dog,” Heriford said. “It would be hard for me to go through a day without him.”

While Heriford didn’t get his dog through Veteran Sheepdogs of America, he does see value in what they do for veterans.

“Tony has a real understanding for the issues surrounding veterans almost at every level and particular at the VA,” Heriford said. “If you get denied at the VA, he is more than happy to rectify that for you.

“This organization is absolutely essential. We’ve got nobody else to go to at this point. If you go to a VA representative in Denver all they do is hand you forms. They don’t help.

“It takes somebody like Tony who has all the experience working with organizations like Wounded Warriors. What a stand-up guy.”

The organization has a database of others ready to help veterans that they can be referred to if Veteran Sheepdogs of America is unable to help.

Archer met Hosler when Hosler was serving as Lamborn’s district director. Hosler is now president and chairman of Veteran Sheepdogs of America.

Hosler served as a Marine infantryman alongside a bomb dog. He had overseas deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and said that he and Archer had lost several close friends to suicide.

“We all have changed from deployments and being in the military,” Hosler said.

“Everything we are doing involves the veterans and gets them out around peer groups. “Come out, get around people who have gone through the same things, dealing with the same demons and know that you are not alone.”

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