Thanks to support from Newman’s Own Foundation, veterans who are blind achieve renewed independence and improved quality of life.
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation breeds, raises, trains, and matches guide dogs that help bring freedom and increased independence to those who are blind. Fidelco Guide Dog clients are inspiring people; they climb Mt. Everest, win gold medals as world-class athletes, serve America in the military and sacrifice on the battlefield, and advocate for people who are blind and visually impaired.
SSgt Michael Malarsie, USAF (Ret), and his Fidelco German Shepherd Guide Dog, Xxon, have an extraordinary story containing all the elements of an unforgettable movie: patriotism, war, drama, heroism, sadness, inspiration, love, and triumph. But this is no movie script for Michael; it is very real. It is his life story.
In the remote mountains of Afghanistan, then SrA Michael Malarsie was blinded and severely wounded by a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) that killed four team members and blew him off a bridge.
Following months of determined rehabilitation and painful facial surgeries, and exactly one year later, Michael was partnered with his Fidelco German Shepherd Guide Dog, Xxon. With Xxon leading the way, Michael returned to active duty status as the only blind airman serving in the United States Air Force. He also received the Bronze Star With Valor award for heroism on the battlefield and was promoted to Staff Sergeant.
Xxon is a game-changer for the entire Malarsie family. He provides increased freedom and independence not only for Michael, but for his wife, Jesse. "When Xxon is working with Michael, I don't feel that I have to watch out for him every minute," said Jesse. "I can focus on being a mom to our children." Michael agrees, "I can get around in half as much time and my confidence is way up. I'm excited to be out and in society again." Michael added, "I'm so lucky to be alive. Being blind is such a small thing - I'm not going to let it slow me down at all. I don’t know where I'd be now if it weren't for Xxon."
Michael scuba dives, wake boards, rides horses and keeps up with his young and growing family. "We are very blessed that so many people care so much about people like us. Thank you."