More than a decade had passed, but Karolyn Smith still lives and breathes the horrors of war. Serving as a US Army machine gunner, Smith completed more than 300 combat patrols in Baghdad. Little did she know that a cuddly, feline friend will change her life.
At 43, Smith was declared disabled after a roadside bomb detonated and nearly killed her. She survived the explosion, but she sustained minor brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
After the incident, she lived a “flight or fight” mode as if she was waiting for something to explode. She was in a constant state of panic.
“Every day you either live or die: There’s nothing in between. I lost my innocence and my invincibility on that battlefield,” Smith admitted during an interview with TODAY.
Returning to civilian life in 2006, Smith recalled how she struggled to integrate with fellow women who had never seen and fought a war. These women worry and complain about hot weather and broken fingernails. She sought support from fellow veterans.
In 2014, after receiving recognition for her 12-year army service, she found herself browsing through San Diego Humane Society’s Facebook page. She found two kittens up for adoption, Sprinkles and Leprechaun. Sprinkles’ condition caught her eye.
“The marking on Sophia’s nose was rapturous. It’s like God told me, ‘This one. You need to look at this one among all the others,” Smith recalled.
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Sprinkles, whom she later called Sophia, has another special quality. She is an amputee like Smith.
Smith adopted the two kittens and renamed them as Sophia and Leonidas. She enjoys taking care of them that she seldom relies on medication for PTSD. Her mood improves when she touches their fur and plays with them.
Smith believes that her feline friends rescued her from a life of despair.
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