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Mushing for veterans

By Dave Goldman 10:24 PM February 26, 2014

For Rick and Jennifer Casillo, it's about more than the race

ANCHORAGE - Rick and Jennifer Casillo’s purpose goes far beyond the Iditarod finish line in Nome.

The couple runs Battle Dawgs Racing and Alaska’s Healing Hearts, two groups dedicated to honoring our nation’s veterans.

The goal of their operation is to give wounded veterans a place to replenish their spirit, and say what better place to do that than Alaska.

“Alaska’s the greatest healing grounds that could possibly be, so I wanted to bring the warriors up there and let them hang out with the dogs and me for the day and teach them a little but about mushing and let them enjoy the dogs,” Rick said. “Seeing it firsthand and the reaction with the dogs, you can just kind of see a release with them, and so it’s something we hope to continue for years to come.”

While Rick is the musher, his wife Jennifer is the inspiration. She served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance officer.

They hosted veterans over the summer as part of their glacier sled dog tours and even had several visit during the winter while training for the Last Great Race.

“It’s grown us closer, for sure,” Jennifer said. “We’ve definitely found a common ground that we’ve both been able to be passionate about.”

Rick agrees.

“I’ve never served in the military, but in a way this is me serving … and giving back,” Rick said. “We just hope to do the best we can and help as many people as we possibly can.”

Click here for more information about Battle Dawgs Racing.

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