Millions of people watched on television as Hurricane Ian barreled across Florida, hitting many areas with high-speed winds and torrential rain.

Some of the hardest hit areas, which include the Fort Myers area, have been decimated, leaving millions of people and animals in need of help. As search and rescue continues, the death toll has been climbing as Florida begins cleanup and recovery after one of the largest storms in U.S. history.

One group, Paws of War, is here to help those restart their lives. The retired veterans at Paws of War have left their own families and in some cases, their loyal service animals as many suffer from PTSD to help other at-risk veterans spend days preparing. They are now in Fort Myers ready to help as many veterans, seniors, and animals they can find in need of assistance. They are seeking the support of the community to help with their efforts.

“This storm has been catastrophic in some areas of Florida, and we are ready to do all we can to help,” explains Mike Kilano, veteran and outreach coordinator for Paws of War.

“Our response team is ready to step in and help with rescues and supplies to those who need us but our main focus is on the large veteran population in Fort Myers and surrounding areas. We know what some of these veterans are going through right now, especially those who feel like they lost everything.”

Photo courtesy of Paws of War

The team at Paws of War has spent several days loading up supplies to take to those in need, including everything from pet food, clean water, and generators to life-saving equipment. They also took plenty of supplies to help with the many pets who have been displaced and require assistance. They will provide people with fresh water and pet food, helping ensure their pets have what they need.

Paws of War has a staging area set up at the American Legion Post 38, located at 1857 Jackson St. in Fort Myers. They will also be working with veterans who were at risk prior to the hurricane, including those who were homeless. Many of them have medical conditions that require devices, including sleep apnea machines. They are providing generators and other assistance to veterans, many of whom live under the poverty level.

Having been flooded so badly, the area can quickly become toxic and unhealthy for people and animals. Getting all of them to dry land and providing access to fresh water, food, and supplies is critical. Paws of War has been receiving many requests from people with service animals, so they are deploying their medical mobile unit that will help animals that are in these hard-hit areas.

“We will do all we can, but we can’t do it alone,” added Kilano. “Those who would like to help are encouraged to donate. Any amount will help because the people and animals essentially need everything.”

Kilano is a former U.S. Marine who was deployed to Iraq. When he returned home, he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has a service dog. He realizes that putting down the leash to go to Florida, and leaving his service dog behind, will be a challenge, but he feels his efforts are desperately needed in helping victims of the hurricane.

To help support the Hurricane Ian rescue and relief effort in Florida, click here: https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/171090-emergency-disaster-relief.

Paws of War has been operating worldwide since 2014, helping the military save the animals they rescue while deployed overseas. They have helped veterans with numerous issues, including suicide, service and support dogs, companion cats and dogs, food insecurity, veterinary care, and animal rescue for deployed military. As the demand for Paws of War’s services grew, traditional fundraisers like galas and golf outings were sidelined, putting a crimp in the needed funding to keep these services going. Paws of War has a large loyal following of supporters and looks forward to working with new corporate sponsors to support these life-saving programs running.

To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or donate, visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

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