Brantley Gilbert’s commitment to America’s service members has always been a driving force in a career that’s seen him play for the people instead of the music industry. Whether hitting No. 1 with the powerful “One Hell of an Amen” (The Valory Music Co.) to honor a fallen soldier and his friend who was there, or taking a string of motorcycles from his home in Georgia to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the men and women who’ve served our nation, the songwriter powerhouse has sought to give back and say thank you. For Gilbert, it wasn’t enough.
After multiple conversations on how to help servicemen and women returning home, coping with the challenges of the transition back to civilian life, he reached out to DAV (Disabled American Veterans) with the idea of pairing veterans in need with companion dogs to help normalize their re-acclimation. On Saturday, February 3 Gilbert’s notion will become a reality. Jason Hassinger, 29, of Philadelphia, will travel to Albany, New York, to meet his new best friend.
“There is nothing like the loyalty, love, and companionship of a dog,” says Gilbert. “For some people, a dog can connect unlike even a best friend and for those who gave beyond the call of duty to our nation, I love the idea of matching them up with a trained companion dog to help them get their lives to a better place.”
Hassinger, who served from November 2006 until September 2011, saw three tours of combat as a Marine Infantryman overseas. He has received multiple awards, including the Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three (3) Bronze Service Stars, Iraq Campaign Service Medal with a Bronze Service Star, Presidential Citation-Navy Global War on Terrorism Medal and the, NATO Medal-International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan among many awards. Now a professional veterans benefits advocate for DAV, he helps other veterans access the benefits they have earned.
“’One Hell of an Amen’ makes me think very much of my times in the Marines,” Hassinger says. “More importantly than my service to this great nation, this song reminds me of all of our other brothers we lost over the course of my three deployments overseas. In one of his many interviews, Gilbert mentions he has late night phone calls where he talks with military vets who are battling demons. I, like Gilbert, have had late night phone calls with friends to lend a listening ear when they need it most. Both of us like providing service to others.”
Hassinger will be the first of eight Veterans who will receive a companion dog from Gilbert during his THE ONES THAT LIKE ME TOUR. The companion dogs are being recruited by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The PEDIGREE® Brand will cover the cost of all dog training and will provide a one-year supply of food to each of the eight dogs.
On Saturday afternoon the Country Music Association Song of the Year nominee for “Dirt Road Anthem” will introduce Hassinger to Charlie, a 3-to-4-year-old Hound mix in Albany, NY. Hassinger will be Gilbert’s guest for the third show of his THE ONES THAT LIKE ME TOUR, before leaving with his new companion.
“In many ways, we’re taking a rescue animal and rescuing a returning hero,” Gilbert says.
“These dogs and people are all heroes, I am blessed the PEDIGREE® Brand is willing to help us get the dogs trained, certified and fed for that first year. The positive impact a companion dog can make is immeasurable, and I am humbled to be able to do this.”
“When we heard about what Brantley Gilbert wanted to do on his The Ones That Like Me Tour to honor veterans, we knew we had to help,” said Elizabeth Barrett, PEDIGREE® Brand Manager, Mars Petcare. “Gilbert has distinguished himself as an artist who goes to great lengths to give back to America’s Armed Forces and his efforts to provide companion dogs to veterans during this tour align perfectly with the PEDIGREE Brand’s Feed the Good campaign which is based on the insight that dogs and humans benefit each other. Knowing that the PEDIGREE® brand can play a part in finding loving homes for these dogs while giving back to those who have served our country is an incredible honor.”
Gilbert will be presenting a veteran with a companion dog every weekend of this spring’s The Ones That Like Me Tour. For him, giving healing to the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force members who represented our nation is the greatest gift his music has provided. Look for more stories, moments and; dogs over the coming months.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the PEDIGREE® Brand,” he explains. “They recognize the powerful difference a dog can make on someone’s life, and they stepped up and stepped in. This is going to make a lot of lives happier, lighter and renewed. If that’s not something we can be proud of, what is? Thanks, PEDIGREE®.”