Service Parrots Help Veterans Suffering from PTSD

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FLORIDA  --  Anxiety is often a part of daily life for many people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

But now, some Florida veterans with PTSD are receiving some help in an unconventional way.

WFLA's John Rogers reported on ways in which birds are helping relieve some of the anxiety.

After Greg Para spent time in Afghanistan, the experience never left him.

"I couldn't go out in crowds, I couldn't go out with cars trying to just cut in," said Para. "It created a lot of anxiety because that's what they would do in Afghanistan, try to cut into the convoys and separate them and blow up and all that stuff."

But then, he made a feathered friend.

"The more I spent with the birds it kind of got me out of that. I didn't think about that, my nightmares became less," he said.

Birds of Paradise offers a PTSD program to help treat veterans like Greg. The nonprofit rescues parrots who, in some cases, were mistreated or traumatized. The vets visit the parrots to do volunteer work on the property and bond with the intelligent animals.

"They can understand speech and they can speak back to you," said Debbie Huckaby, of Birds of Paradise.

"When you have an animal that can talk to you, it just brightens your day," Para.

In a way the birds understand what the vets are going through, as they are also overcoming rough pasts.

"The parrots are very intuitive, so instinctively if there's something wrong with you, they're going to pick up on that," said Huckaby.

"The more they get to know you, they let their guard down they start healing, you let your guard down, you forget that you are wondering if there's a package over there that's gonna blow up," said Para.

These veterans who sacrificed everything for our freedom and the organization's parrots are helping each other break free from the chains that bind them.