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Veteran and sexual assault survivor crosses graduation stage with service dog

Southeastern Guide Dogs says Stefanie was denied a service dog by 11 agencies due to what caused her PTSD.
Credit: Southeastern Guide Dogs

PALMETTO, Fla. — Stefanie Marvin-Miller just celebrated her graduation from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. And she didn't make the walk across the stage by herself — her steadfast service dog Leland was right by her side. 

To prepare for the day, she decorated two graduation caps. One for herself that said: “I hope my dog is proud of me,” and one for her service dog, Leland, that said — “I am.” 

But bringing Leland into Stefanie's life wasn't easy, according to Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Marvin-Miller is an Army National Guard veteran and survived a sexual assault by a fellow soldier, according to a release. The assault left Miller with PTSD. 

“I’d been in the Army for about four years when I was the victim of a sexual assault by another service member,” Marvin-Miller said in a statement. “I was only twenty-two at the time.”

She told Southeastern Guide Dogs that before she received Leland in 2018, she was confined to her home "with paralyzing flashbacks and night terrors brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder." 

However, because her assault wasn't combat-related, she was denied getting a service dog from 11 agencies. That's until Southeastern Guide Dogs says it stepped in. 

“This was the only program in the U.S. that accepted that kind of PTSD without question,” Marvin-Miller said in a statement.

Leland was her "perfect match." 

“He’s my best friend, and my lifeline,” Marvin-Miller said in a statement. “He attended every class, lecture, and study session. When graduation came, we knew we earned it together.”

Credit: Southeastern Guide Dogs

To learn more about Southeastern Guide Dogs, click here

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