Watch Sonny & Ace's story!
Alfredo “Sonny” Lopez was born in El Paso, Texas. Sonny grew up in a family of 6. He originally planned to be a priest but soon changed his mind at the age of 18 to join the U.S. military. His Dad drove him down to the recruiting station and before he knew it, he had joined the Air Force. It was 1979. For the next 28 years, Sonny would proudly serve his country.
Sonny started off as an aircraft mechanic. Soon, Sonny was promoted to Crew Chief working on B-52’s and then was selected later on to support the B-1 bombers. In 1993, Sonny was selected to bring the B-2 online at Whiteman Air Force Base. For the last 8 years of his career, Sonny was a 1st Sargant. Sonny was deployed overseas to Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq and many other war zones. Sonny said one of the biggest impacts on him in Kuwait where fallen warriors who had died are prepared to be sent home to their families. Sonny said he has tremendous respect for those who work in the Mortuary Affairs department.
When Sonny returned from overseas, he didn’t feel well. In 2007, he went to get a physical. An MRI was performed and showed multiple tumors wrapped around the base of his skull. His doctor told him to go home and get his “affairs” in order as he estimated that Sonny only had about a year to live. Undeterred, Sonny obtained a second opinion. Thankfully, that doctor told Sonny he could remove the tumors and would live. Sonny had the surgery and the tumors were removed. However, Sonny had to learn to eat, swallow and talk again as the surgery effected his vocal chords and nerves. As a result of Sonny’s medical condition, he had to be medically retired.
After 28 years in the military, Sonny experienced difficulty transitioning back to civilian life. He frequently was depressed and had trouble connecting with people. He joined the Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms department. One day, he had a meltdown. A good friend who was a retired Marine told Sonny he needed to go talk to someone about what was going on. He said “Don’t worry—you won’t be labeled..” He was given a therapist’s name and he called her. Sonny started to see her and she told Sonny “You need a dog!” Sonny said “No, I don’t need a dog!!” But one day, something changed. Sonny took the list of organizations out on a piece of paper and looked it over. He saw Paws for Heroes name and decided to apply.
A few months later, Paws for Heroes brought Sonny his new companion dog “Ace.” Ace was a dog that was saved by Adore Houston, a local rescue that Paws for Heroes has worked with to adopt companion animals for veterans.
After Ace arrived, Sonny said he improved Sonny’s outlook on life, love and the world. Sonny said Ace just knows when Sonny is down and has his moments, Ace will come over and comfort him. Ace gives Sonny unconditional love and makes him laugh. Sonny said that he is not sure if he would still be alive if not for Ace.
Sonny is married now and is going to VFW events and meeting with other veteran groups. He brings Ace everywhere he goes and everyone loves him. Sonny said he tells all of the veterans he meets not to be afraid to reach out and ask for help….and that sometimes help comes with 4 legs, a cold nose and a furry little body.