Veterans start clothing line to help other vets

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Standing among the Dogs of War Inc. apparel available at Ketcherside Kountry are: Mike Ketcherside, owner of Ketcherside Kountry; David Lack, veteran ambassador; Sam Shulaw, multimedia director; Bane; Lee Willard, co-owner/creative services director; and Dale Day, co-owner and business director. Not pictured is Jeff Kanell, digital design director.
DAR/Michelle Friedrich

Veterans helping veterans is the mission behind Dogs of War Inc., a clothing apparel line available online and at Ketcherside Kountry.

“Lee (Willard) and I are both combat veterans … we were talking one day about how we could help veterans, so we decided to start selling T-shirts and taking the money we made from the shirts and doing things for veterans,” explained Dale Day, who co-owns Dogs of War with Willard.

Dogs of War Inc. has a line of men’s T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts, with such sayings as “Death Before Dismount,” “Tattoos and Tactics” and “Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War.”

Another design features a deer skull and the DOW logo.

“We’ve got a female line now that we’re working on,” Day said.

The designs, according to Willard, are “all four of us coming together. saying let’s take this idea, this idea, this idea and putting it all together.

“ … I think that’s what makes us such a great team. We’re not afraid to say that sucks or that’s amazing.”

Willard said because of the “camaraderie from the military, we’re not afraid to be honest with each other.”

A lot of merchandise, Day said, is sold online on their website — .

“They’re actually selling more here (Ketcherside Kountry) than on our website now,” Day said.

The name Dogs of War, according to Willard, comes from a quote in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

“That means a lot to all of us because we are all veterans, and that’s kind of what we do,” Willard said. “War is ugly, but we kind of signed up to do that and stand ready for them to let us loose to go do what we do best, protect the country.”

Since setting up shop in April, Day said, the idea has caught on, and he, Willard and their partners, Sam Shulaw and Jeff Kanell, have established partnerships with the Wake Foundation and Ketcherside Kountry, as well as Shadows Behind the Badge in St. Louis,

Shadows Behind the Badge offers free counseling services to first responders and anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Shulaw said. It’s telephone number can be found on the Dogs of War web site.

“In the Southeast Missouri area, there are no programs for younger veterans,” said Shulaw. “Everything is geared toward a lot of Vietnam-era veterans, which is great because they didn’t receive a lot of care … at the time they needed it.”

Shulaw said veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom are coming home, experiencing drug and alcohol issues.

“These veterans are struggling and turning to ways to cope that they shouldn’t be turning to, and we’re trying to prevent that, catch them before they do that,” Shulaw said.

A need to help veterans and the creation of an apparel line “kind of molded together,” Willard said.

Day agreed, saying, “We do this to do what we want to do, which is helping veterans.”

Willard said their passion is not just apparel, but the veteran community.

“What we decided to do was build a team around us because whenever veterans come to us, we’re not all going to have the same experiences,” Day explained.

The team includes veteran ambassadors, such as David Lack, a Purple Heart recipient, as well as a female veteran of the U.S. Marines. It also includes Army, Marine and Navy veterans.

When veterans come in, “we can say, I’ve never been through what you’ve gone through, but we have someone who can talk to you …because they have,” Day explained. “We’ve built our team … where we can help any veteran that comes in.”

The Dogs of War team, Day said, has helped veterans with different things, including food and money.

Willard said team members also have put veterans into contact with such services as Alcoholics Anonymous.

“We’ve pushed them toward trade schools, things like that,” as well as “leadership training,” anything to help them “land with both feet on the ground,” Willard said.

Day agreed, saying, “We want them to use the best abilities they took out of the military and put it to use in their lives.”

Or, Day said, they can help the veterans figure out the GI Bill.

Having gone through vocational rehabilitation himself, Day said, “we know those processes.”

In March, Day said, team members also will take veterans on a hunt, which will be a “counseling/therapy thing for them.”

The goal, he said, is to give the veteran(s) “some kind of purpose, something they can do that’s meaningful in their life.”

“When we all got out, it was really hard to find that purpose when you go from serving in the military,” Willard said.

Day agreed.

Military service, he said, is “very structured. You know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, and “why you’re doing it,” added Willard.

“The things you did over there (on overseas deployments) really meant something,” Willard said. “You come back over here, and you go about your day-to-day life, trying to get purpose … .”

Dogs of War, Willard said, is “where we got our purpose, where our teams got our purpose — to give back.”

Willard said they want the veterans “who served in our generation” to have somewhere to go where others “can relate (and) put them on a positive path.“

Shulaw said they hope to branch out beyond this area.

“Eventually, we would love to help get (veterans) scholarships and things like that,” Day added.

For more information about Dogs of War apparel line or veteran services visit its website at .

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