WASHINGTON (DC NEWS NOW) — “After 9/11, I really wanted to work in supporting the military. I became an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),” explained Melissa Chaump. “There are a lot of veterans at DIA with service dogs. I was always amazed by their power to heal and change lives for the better.”

For that reason, Chaump got involved with Canine Companions, a national group that pairs veterans who have disabilities with service dogs for free.

United States Marine Corps veteran Stephen Dillon, who has PTSD, is one of the people who has benefitted from the program. He turned to it and therapy after he received a phone call that a former friend and fellow Marine had died by suicide.

“It shook me a lot, honestly. I cried and asked, ‘Why?'” said Dillon, who realized he needed to do something to address his PTSD.

Through Canine Companions, he received his service dog, Sven, one of the best gifts Dillon said he ever has received.

“He’s changed my life a lot. I try not to get teary-eyed when talking about it. I feel like I have purpose now,” said Dillon. “He pushes me to go outside of my boundaries.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, roughly 11-20 out of every 100 veterans live with PTSD.

Chaump’s work with Canine Companions includes training a 1-year-old lab named Tulley. She’s responsible for teaching him basic commands before he goes for four to six months of professional training.

“When Tulley graduates from Canine Companions with his new partner, they will have a graduation ceremony. I will have the honor of giving his leash to his new owner,” said Chaump. “That will be an emotional ceremony for me.”

Chaump added, “Tulley will stay with me forever. I can’t wait to see where he goes. But he’s already made such an impact on my life.”

Dillon said volunteers, including Chaump, are the true heroes.

“I chose to join the military. I knew what was going to happen, and what could have happened,” said Dillon. “Someone like her, to raise a dog on her own free will, it’s beautiful to me.”

You can learn more about Canine Companions, including how to donate, by visiting its website. Someone agreed to match donations to the group made on Veterans Day up to $50,000.