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Inside the Gates: Army veteran wants to use mushing to help vets with emotional issues

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 2:33 PM AKST
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WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - Josh Robbins has developed a special bond with sled dog racing. His second year in the sport finds him training for his second Willow 300 Sled Dog Race.

“It was to try out something Alaskan,” Robbins said. “It is the Alaskan sport.”

Dobbins is a U.S. Army veteran, and races dogs from Evermore Adventures.

“It brings me back to being on a small team overseas where you do rely on each other,” Dobbins said. “There’s that sense of brotherhood and camaraderie.”

Robbins wants other veterans to share that feeling. He will bring a veteran to Alaska to work with the dogs and get them ready for the race. Robbins will also check on that person’s emotional well-being. He created Outreach 22 as a way to help veterans who may consider ending their lives.

The numeral 22 represents the number of veterans around the nation who took their own lives each day back in 2010, according to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs report. The VA lowered the number to 17 in its 2021 report.

“One guy committing suicide is too much,” Robbins said.

He found himself on that path while he served as an Army sniper before he left the service in 2014.

“What came of it was the new norm for me. The new norm was unhealthy, it was depressing, it was dark,” Robbins said. “It got to the point where it overtook, it overwhelmed, and ultimately, I needed help.”

The first step proved the biggest challenge: Robbins had to ask for help.

“All that pressure of being tough, and being strong and having that warrior mentality — it’s tough to lower that guard,” Robbins said.

He received treatment twice, and wants others to follow his lead.

“That’s what’s important. Acknowledge it, realize it and be willing to make change,” Robbins said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Robbins found his through sled dog racing, and wants to use that to help fellow veterans with emotional problems find their light.

Veterans struggling and seeking assistance can call the Veterans Crisis Line.

If you are considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Stop Suicide Alaska at 1-877-266-HELP.

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