EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Growing up a New York Giants fan, former Army medic Steve DeVries got a lot of thrills watching the team and occasionally coming to Giants Stadium for games.
His first trip to MetLife Stadium left him with a thrill the 38-year-old will never forget.
On a day the Giants and the NFL honored servicemen, DeVries got something he never expected: a service dog to help him deal with his continuing battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. It was presented to him during a ceremony between the first and second quarters of Sunday's game between the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
It has been a long wait and a long road for DeVries, an East Meadow, New York, native who now lives in Herndon, Virginia, with wife, who is expecting their second child, and his 12-year-old daughter.
DeVries joined the Army in 2005, was deployed to Iraq in 2006 and was seriously injured when an improvised explosive device went off under his vehicle. He recalls his back felt like a jelly doughnut and he remembers reaching for his legs to see if they were still there.
He spent 6-to-8 months in a hospital bed with a spinal injury before moving on to a wheelchair, a walker and then a cane.
His right leg has nerve damage and there will be more surgery down the road.
Dealing with the injury has been the toughest part for DeVries.
''For me, I had issues with anxiety, but it is the adjustment,'' he said Sunday after receiving Levi, a gold Labrador. ''I came back and couldn't do the things I used to do. I couldn't run. I couldn't do this, I couldn't do that, or there was someone telling you, you couldn't do it. That was harder for me. I felt the couch was good enough for me. I didn't need to go anywhere.''
His couch was where he wanted to be. His hope now is that Levi will help him get over that.
DeVries had waited 18 months to get a service dog. The two will work almost daily for the next three weeks so he feels comfortable to go home with the dog.
''I think when I am out sometimes I feel alone and I do have that anxiety. Maybe having him by my side gives me a little more strength,'' said DeVries, who had not been to a Giants game since the late-1990s. ''I want to do things with my family and my daughter and the baby on the way. I don't want to sit on the couch. I don't want to sit home alone. I want to go out.''
DeVries received the dog through the work of American Humane, the Giants, Semper K-9 and the United War Veterans Council.
The veteran also got something else he liked: The Giants beat the Eagles 28-23 for their third straight win.
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