Veterans Day

Marine on a Mission: Service Dog Makes All the Difference for Brockton Vet

Tom Bolinder and his service dog, Burgundy, are best friends

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Vietnam veteran from Brockton, Massachusetts, has made it his mission to ensure that all veterans receive the benefits due to them.

He knows finding help can be hard to navigate, but just this year, he’s found a partnership that literally helps him put one foot in front of the other.

Tom Bolinder and his service dog, Burgundy, are best friends.

And this is a partnership that was a long time coming. Bolinder served a year and 28 days in the Vietnam War, earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, among other accolades as a Marine.

He still suffers from lingering effects of serious physical and mental injuries from the war.

"For my counterbalance being sprayed with Agent Orange, the neuropathy is so bad I can lose my balance," Bolinder said.

He heard about America’s VetDogs through NBC Boston’s Puppy with a Purpose program and applied. He said it was a several month process that included talking about his service.

"It was just a rigorous thing and I had to talk about Vietnam, which I'm not too fond of it," he said.

He wanted to quit, but he kept at it.

Last December, he met Burgundy.

“I cried… and we trained for 10 days,” Bolinder said. “I would encourage any vets, especially the Afghanistan vets because I know how you feel.”

Now he has a new best friend at his side. Burgundy helps Bolinder stay steady on his feet and calms him down if he’s having a nightmare.

"She's very strong. She knows what to do," Bolinder said. "If I go on the floor, I use her to get myself up."

"She brings a lot of joy, and at the same time, I feel so comfortable about him being alone," Bolinder's daughter, Katie Sandford, said.

She said her father is an inspiration, and Burgundy makes him even stronger.

"I'm so proud of him and the way that he makes sure other guys are OK too. He makes sure everyone is getting the services they need."

"I know how I felt when they deserted Vietnam," Bolinder said. "And it's the same thing all over again. I want them to know they're appreciated for what they did."

Last month, Bolinder and 25 other Purple Heart recipients were honored by the City of Brockton. The city officially earned the title “Purple Heart City” and was scheduled to acknowledge that at Thursday's Veterans Day parade at 10 a.m.

For more information on the America's VetsDogs program, go to

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