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Veteran graduates college with service dog by his side

Veteran Eddie Gunter walked across the stage to receive his diploma Saturday at Arkansas Tech with his friend and companion, a black Lab named Star, by his side. (KATV Photo)

It was a graduation 30 years in the making.

Veteran Eddie Gunter walked across the stage to receive his diploma Saturday, but he couldn't have done it without a little help from his friend and companion - a black Lab named Star.

Gunter started at Arkansas Tech in 1987 but wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do. He eventually left college for a career in the military.

After serving 13 years as an army combat medic, Gunter bore his battle scars inside.

"I was going through an inpatient PTSD treatment at Fort Roots in North Little Rock, Arkansas," Gunter said. "They had a dog on the ward that was a service animal that Dr. Bob provided."

The dog quickly took to Gunter and the staff started noticing a dramatic improvement in his treatment.

The doctors decided Gunter could benefit from a service animal.

"We were going to Petco and there was an Arkansas dog rescue out there. They had Star, of all things. I walked up to Star and and Star walked up to me and it was like instantaneous love. Like, you know that's a soul mate of yours."

They went through the service animal training together - Gunter by Star's side.

It wasn't long before Star returned the favor, this time, attending his classes at Arkansas Tech as he pursued his degree in psychology and rehab science.

"She's been on this journey with me. Every class I attended, every test I took, every game I might have went to - wherever I go she goes."

So, it seemed fitting that Saturday Gunter shouldn't be the only one clad in cap and gown.

After all, they did it together and side-by-side they'll continue.

"I'd like to work with veterans. That's my goal," Gunter said. Doctors helped me through it. Other veterans helped me through a lot of the pain and stuff I went through. I want to be able to give back now."

Gunter plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree.

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