A beloved canine was back at Capital One Arena Monday night: Captain, the Washington Capitals former team dog, and retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark Gwathmey were in the stands for the first time since they were matched as the team honored and celebrated Veteran’s Day.
Captain and Master Sgt. Gwathmey received cheers and a standing ovation.
For our celebration of Veteran’s Day, presented by @LIUNA, we’re excited to welcome back our beloved Captain and his forever human, retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark Gwathmey!#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/KUOPrtC3vh
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 9, 2021
After nearly two years of training and hard work and graduating from America’s VetDogs, Captain’s moment came on June 16, when the official service dog was matched with Gwathmey.
He has been assisting Gwathmey, a St. Leonard, Maryland, resident, with several tasks and cues to help mitigate his veteran’s disability including retrieving dropped items, counterbalance, summoning assistance, seizure response, positional cues to extend personal space, and PTSD cues such as rest, nightmare interruption and shake.
We’re so proud of the amazing work Captain has been destined for from the start with @americasvetdogs.
His extensive training has now prepared him to help retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark and make him and his family happy and comfortable. pic.twitter.com/Qptev5H1z0
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 16, 2021
Gwathmey has served the United States throughout the world, including in Desert Storm, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, and Bosnia. For three years during a stateside assignment, he was a member of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, which was responsible for the clean-up of the anthrax-infected Hart Senate Building and the two Washington, D.C., post offices after the anthrax attacks in 2001, known as Operation Noble Eagle.
Gwathmey’s first Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment was during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where he was injured during a building collapse. During his second OIF deployment in 2004, Gwathmey blacked out following a combat mission and was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. Upon returning to Iraq, and following the siege of Fallujah, he was injured during a combat operation. During a third tour in Iraq, Gwathmey was yet again injured during patrol when a series of IEDs exploded. The percussions from the explosions exacerbated his previous head injuries, and he suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI), which brought on a seizure disorder.
Upon Gwathmey’s medical retirement in 2011, after more than 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was hired by the U.S. Navy as a disaster preparedness specialist, where he continues to serve his country as a civil service employee.
Deana Stone, Captain’s former handler, called it a “joyous day” after “puppy-raising” him during his seventeen-month tenure with the Capitals. Kim Stasheff, who worked with Captain when he went back to AVD in Smithtown, New York in February, said the match is based on “personality” and “skill” and they also work with the veteran.
“Captain helps give me comfort and security when I have my night terrors,” Mark said in June, adding, “What I hope to get out of this relationship between Captain and I is letting my family know that I’m well taken care of.”
Mark’s wife Carolyn called the experience “not just life-changing, but it’s life-saving.”
Fans were introduced to Captain during the Rock the Red Carpet event on October 5, 2019, making his first appearance with captain Alex Ovechkin and attending his first game that evening. He was with the Capitals for seventeen months as a part of his training to become a service dog. Captain attended his final Capitals game as a member of the team on February 20. He completed training camp and graduated from America’s VetDogs on June 13.
By Della Young