LAWRENCEBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sometimes all a man needs is a best friend. One veteran is in the business of making that happen, serving others that all have different pasts.
“I had a grenade go off…took my hand off instantly. Gangrene in the leg,” recalled Army veteran Richard Smith.
“I did the first Gulf War and came home and was hit by a drunk driver,” explained Navy veteran Lonn Cunningham who is confined to his wheelchair with the use of only one arm.
But, they’re on the same path. Both traveled to the same destination in Lawrenceburg to visit Kenneth Kanbenshue, an animal lover and Army veteran who’s compelled to continue his life of service after a moment he can’t forget.
“I had a friend ask to help with his dog, and well I,” Kanbenshue said while choking back tears, “Well, he’s dead now because I failed to help, and that’s where it all starts.”
That was two decades ago. Since then, Kanbenshue has saved and trained 2,300 pound pups to become service dogs for veterans with his nonprofit Working Dogs for Vets.
“That sounds like a lot but that’s a small dent of what needs to be done,” Kanbenshue said.
A steady stream of comrades call on Kanbenshue, all hoping to don dog tags again as he assigns new battle buddies with the help of a team who trains each animal to care for the needs of their vet.
“When I drop stuff he picks it up for me,” said Smith.
“He can open doors,” explained Cunningham.
“I depend on her so much because I can’t hear,” added Pam Douglas, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam.
Kenneth and his wife Brenda poured their life savings into this 20-acre property, even building an accessible house for veterans with physical limitations.
“If it wasn’t for this cabin,” Cunningham said, “I wouldn’t be able to do this. I couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel for however long it takes. They’ve thought of it all.”
Working Dogs for Vets had plans to build additional lodging; the pandemic put that on pause.
“Unfortunately, the donations have been way down,” explained Kanbenshue.
Even still, he refuses to charge for his services as these men and women have already paid so much. Hearing their stories pushes him to face financial adversity head-on.
“Our kids are getting to see him do things again that he hasn’t done since they were babies,” said Jillian Bradbury a veteran herself married to an Army veteran.
“People ask me why I do it. How can you not do it?” Kanbenshue asked.
While it comes naturally for him to help, asking for it isn’t as easy. This is why these veterans sing his praises.
“I’d do anything in the world for Ken and Brenda because they brought me into a place in my life that I never knew could have existed,” Smith said.
Overcoming the lingering stress of war – News 2 looks at what’s being done to help those who have served keep their voices heard in special reports all-day Veterans Day, in every newscast, and on wkrn.com.
They speak up with the hope others will donate because, they say, you’re saving lives at both ends of the leash.
“Oh my God. How does that not move you?” asked Cunningham. “To save a veteran. To save a dog. Do it for one or the other. Do it for both.”
If you would like to contribute to Working Dogs for Vets, click here.