Karl Hinterberger, Niagara University veteran services program director (second from left), accepts a $3,000 donation on behalf of Dog Tags New York from Grand New Flag owner Philip Kauppinen (center).They are pictured with Dr. Debra Colley, Niagara University executive vice president; Joe Ruszala, co-founder of Dog Tags New York; Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey; and Gunner.

For more than a decade, Dog Tags New York has been connecting military veterans with shelter dogs, creating a lasting bond that offers emotional support and hope for men and women who, in many cases, are suffering from PTSD or other anxieties stemming from their military service.

The organization has assisted more than 145 veterans since it was founded at Niagara University in 2013.

“Both the veteran and the dog are healed,” said Karl Hinterberger, Niagara University veteran services program director who serves as treasurer for DTNY.

On Monday, Feb. 19, Hinterberger accepted a $3,000 donation from Philip Kauppinen, owner of Grand New Flag, during a reception in the university’s student veterans lounge. Kauppinen, who donates 5% of his company’s net profits to a veterans organization each year “officially adopted Dog Tags New York as our permanent nonprofit of choice (in 2019) to give back to annually,” he said. His recent donation brings his five-year total to $14,200.

“Phil's been one of our biggest supporters for the past five years,” said Hinterberger “and we couldn't be more proud to have him on board.”

“Because of his work, we're able to help veterans that are dealing with transition and adjustment,” added Joe Ruszala, a Vietnam veteran and co-founder of DTNY. He noted that 22 veterans commit suicide each day because they feel hopeless. “If you have a reason to get up in the morning, you will. That's the reason to get up in the morning,” he said, pointing to Gunner, Hinterberger’s dog. (Gunner was named after the dog who alerted the Australian Air Force during WWII when he heard enemy aircraft approaching.)

Kauppinen’s inspiration for his continued support of the military is his father, an Army veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam and passed away in 2008.

“He loved dogs,” Kauppinen said. “So when I met with these guys, it just made sense. Especially since one of the founders is a Vietnam veteran. I love these guys, and I'm proud of all the work they do, and I'm happy to be associated with them. Every day I get to hang out with a Vietnam veteran is a great day.”