Ties That Bind: The Beach School and the Veteran Organization


People frequently talk about how ironic life can be. We end up places we’d never expect to go… or, in some cases, stay. Many times, we find ourselves reminiscing: a happy memory floods our mind, an old photo warms our heart, or an old friend crosses our path.

“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, quickly go… and we are never ever the same.”

I remember seeing the above quote as a child. My mother had it in a musical frame by her bed. I didn’t really understand the meaning then, but those words certainly resonate with me as an adult today.


Samantha Epstein (Author of Sliding into Service, K9s For Warriors Education Manager, Fletcher Alumni, and Slider’s Foster Mom)

Throughout our lifetime, we make so many meaningful connections with others  – sometimes we go in different directions than them, but other times we are lucky enough to meet these special individuals once again. I grew up in Jacksonville Beach and graduated from Fletcher Middle and High School. I remember sitting in Mr.(Doug) Brown’s American History class when I was in 8th grade. I found history interesting but wasn’t applying myself to my academics… and didn’t until I started high school. I remember a historical project I completed for Mr. Brown’s class. Because we where studying the Civil War – I chose to present a poster about the movie Gone With the Wind and how it related to that chapter of American History. The poster was not well-executed. Looking back, I am embarrassed about the lack of creativity because I grew up to become a marketing and graphic design professional.

Fast forward like a million years – shortly after I began working at K9s For Warriors, I learned about Fletcher High’s community involvement with K9s. “The Interact club has raised thousands of dollars and sponsored multiple dogs for our veterans,” said one of my coworkers. I was amazed because I knew about the time and money that goes into a K9s For Warriors Dog Sponsorship. I was proud. Proud to have come from the beaches community. Proud to have graduated from Fletcher.


Fletcher Interact students present the check for their fifth sponsored dog to Shari Duval, Founder and President at K9s For Warriors.

Then I was told that Doug Brown was the current sponsor of the Interact Club, a club that I was active in during some of my time at Fletcher. “Wow, he was one of my teachers,” I exclaimed! When I was in Interact… it was fun. During my time in the club, I was involved in many community service projects – but nothing as impressive as what these current Fletcher students have accomplished for K9s For Warriors. I have since talked to Mr.Brown and met several of the students. I am so impressed with their drive and passion to support the mission of rescuing dogs and saving the lives of our veterans.


Doug Brown embraces “Fletcher,” the first service dog sponsored by the Fletcher Interact club.

Another coincidence: Slider, the puppy I am raising, is the fourth dog sponsored by Fletcher High School, my high school. This unique turn of events reminds me that community connections are important. I am very glad that I still live close to the Jacksonville Beaches, and I have this bond with Fletcher. You can never forget where you come from. You can never change where you grew up… and I wouldn’t want to. Fletcher is currently sponsoring their fifth dog, and I am sure it will not be their last. K9s For Warriors is lucky to have this very special relationship!


Doug Brown and Fletcher Interact Students congratulate Warrior Michelle and Service Dog Brownie at a K9s For Warriors graduation.

Thank you, Interact, Mr. Brown, and Fletcher. Go Senators!


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