While there is no doubt that the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces are true heroes, it’s also a sad reality that those heroes are often harshly affected by the horrors of war.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common condition among many of the soldiers who return from active combat. Much like a physical war injury, PTSD can drastically affect the lives of servicemen and servicewomen. But because mental disorders are considered “invisible” illnesses, it can be difficult for those afflicted to find the help they need.
Josh Marino, a veteran of the Iraq war, was sadly one of the many who struggled with the effects of PTSD. The condition even pushed him to the brink of suicide — until an unexpected encounter with a cat named Scout changed his entire life.
Scroll through to read about Josh and Scout’s incredible journey.
Thumbnail Photo: YouTube / Mutual Rescue
[H/T: Bored Panda]
Josh recounted his story in the short film “Josh & Scout” by Mutual Rescue, an organization that aims to change the way people see animal welfare and adoption.
Josh called it an “extreme honor” to wear the uniform of the United States Military. He proudly served in the Iraq war.
One day, when he was deployed to Baghdad, mortars exploded mere feet from him. Josh was left with a traumatic brain injury and developed PTSD.
He experienced severe anxiety and an extreme lack of focus and memory. Josh’s depression sunk him into a low place.
One night, the tortured man was ready to end his life, even drafting a goodbye letter. Before making his attempt, he decided to go outside to smoke one last cigarette in the rain.
It was then that he heard a sound coming from the bushes — a soft meowing.
A black-and-white kitten emerged from the bushes.
The stray cat marched right up to Josh and rubbed itself against his leg, letting Josh pet him. This small act of kindness left the veteran in tears.
“Maybe he knew there was something I couldn’t quite handle,” Josh said.
“I stopped thinking about all of my problems, and I started to think about all of his problems — what I could do to help him.”
Josh and the stray kitten formed a special bond. Every day, he would go outside with a plate of tuna for his furry friend. The cat would hop up on his lap.
Josh began to look forward to their daily bonding sessions. But one day, there was no sign of the unnamed kitten.
The man was distraught, but the effect the cat had on his life had already changed him.
Josh began dating a woman named Becky, who he knew from high school.
A few months into their relationship, Josh and Becky visited an adopt-a-thon.
They stopped in, and Josh was shocked when one of the cats stuck out a leg and pawed him on the arm — it was the same stray cat he’d bonded with months earlier!
Josh adopted his old friend immediately and named the cat Scout. He quickly became an important part of Josh’s life.
The veteran moved home to Pittsburgh to be with Becky, and they married a year later. Scout joined Becky’s 3 cats, and they were a big happy family.
Scout continued to change Josh’s life, even after the marriage. “He made me want to better myself,” Josh explained.
Josh began exercising more, quit smoking, ate healthy, and even returned to school. He got a job working with other veterans to give them the type of help he got.
One day, Josh returned home and didn’t see Scout waiting for him at the door as usual. When he found his buddy, Josh was alarmed to see that Scout was acting sluggish.
They rushed him to the vet, where Scout was diagnosed with feline leukemia. A transfusion bought the kitty 2 weeks of time for Becky and Josh to “spoil” Scout.
But one night after the diagnosis, Josh noticed Scout was unable to catch his breath. He and Becky tried to bring Scout to the vet, but it was too late — in the car ride over, the beloved cat passed away in his arms.
Scout may be gone, but the impact he’s had on Josh’s life will never be forgotten.
“It hurt so much. Even before he was my cat — before he even knew me that well — he saved my life,” Josh said. “He put me on a different path.”
“That little kitten helped me realize that I wasn’t just a sack of damaged goods. Scout was my battle-buddy. He saved me. All I did was the paperwork.”
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