Iowa veteran invited as guest to State of the Union

President Biden will give the address this Tuesday, and an Iowa man who trains service dogs for veterans will be in attendance. We spoke to him before he left.
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 8:41 PM CST
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WAVERLY, Iowa (KCRG) - Hours before his flight to Washington, D.C. for the 2023 State of the Union, Trent Dirks said, “This is probably the biggest moment of my life.”

Dirks will be a guest of Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA2) at Tuesday’s address.

Dirks works for Retrieving Freedom in Waverly, a facility that trains service dogs for veterans and children with autism. Before working there, he was a volunteer, and before that, he visited the facility and found his service dog, Tracer.

Tracer helps Dirks face life with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’d be simple as standing behind me when I’m checking out at Walmart and kind of leaning into the back of my leg so that I know nobody’s coming up behind me and pushing the cart into my back or attacking me,” Dirks said.

“He started giving me some hope,” Dirks added. “Immediately when I met him, there was a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dirks spent close to a decade in the Army National Guard, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. It was after he was medically retired he found Retrieving Freedom.

“I decided to stop by and learn what service dogs could do for somebody who struggles mentally and emotionally with symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, nightmares,” Dirks said.

His work for the nonprofit involves raising awareness of the organization.

“I actually gave Congresswoman Hinson a tour of this same facility about two years ago,” Dirks said. “And we’ve stayed in touch since. And I guess I made a good enough impression on her to join her at the State of the Union.”

Dirks leaves for the Capitol on Monday morning for what he calls a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He considers his invitation to the State of the Union to also be a chance to share his story.

“I just know how much I struggled, and what I’ve been through and what I went through,” Dirks said. “I don’t want to see other veterans and children with autism struggle as much as I did. And so if I can help a little bit—someone to struggle less or don’t struggle as long as I do, or prevent them from hurting themselves, then, you know, that’s my goal is, I just want to help people.”