Finding Freedom from a Four-Legged Friend: A Veteran’s Story

“War is ugly, but it’s not the worst part of military service. Transition is by far the biggest battle.”- 15 year Veteran, Vincent Vargas.


Coast Brands was founded on making freedom a reality to many.  To us, #FreeToBe means the freedom to be who you are. The freedom to spend time with those you love the most, the laughter, and enjoying the moments we have today, because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  Our freedoms are often forgotten and easily taken for granted.  Freedom begins with the selfless men & women that have fought to preserve it.  Without them, we would all be living life very differently.  As part of our mantra, we strive to continue to remind others of these heroic veterans, and do our part to support those who have served. Through our partnership with Alpha Bravo Canine, we have the honor to share the story of an inspirational team, 14 1/2 year Veteran, Francis W. Hudman SGT Retired, and his service dog Lydia.


SGT. Hudman’s story is one much like many veterans returning from service.  The idea of leaving an extremely high-pressure environment should bring solitude, however, easing back into society comes with its own obstacles.  SGT. Hudman’s transition to civilian life involved a number of challenges including: trouble relating to civilians, anxiety, panic in crowds, hypervigilance, severe insomnia and night terrors. Too many vets like SGT. Hudman struggle with the same issues and more, unaware or unable to access non-profits, like Alpha Bravo Canine, dedicated to help them cope with their new daily life.  SGT. Hudman’s journey back to civilian life led him to Philadelphia Veterans Court where by fate he crossed paths with Alpha Bravo Canine.  It was that fate that introduced him to his soon-to-be service companion Lydia, a sweet yellow lab mix.


Lydia was just eight weeks old when she started training.  Her preparation for service involved many different classes, including puppy manner training, obedience training, task training, and public access training. To receive her service dog certificate, Lydia's training regimen consisted of 1-2 hours of training a day for two years.  In the beginning, Lydia had trouble learning how to ignore food on the ground (We feel you, Lydia) but her playful and outgoing nature made her a great student for learning new skills.  Just as much as SGT. Hudman chose Lydia, she chose him, not leaving his side from the day they met.  Lydia brought optimism and hope with her comforting demeanor and commitment to him.  Training with Lydia allowed SGT. Hudman to develop a long lasting bond with her, which helped him to start experience feelings of which he had shut off for so long.  Her unconditional love and dedication allowed his healing process to be possible.  She helped close the gaps from the numbness of war, and his new day-to-day experiences.  Today, Lydia is a loyal and loving 3 year old, that has been working with SGT. Hudman for 2 years.


Lydia stays close to SGT. Hudman’s side wherever they travel together, and will run ahead to check out an area before letting him know it’s okay to proceed.  She loves exploring nature with him, investigates everything he is doing, and is always on-call to support him through his daily challenges.  With her companionship, SGT. Hudman now uses public transportation to attend school.  She provides comfort and security to ease public anxiety in crowded places, and assists him while traveling to other areas he was previously unable to attend.  Although sacrificing his life to service has left challenges, with Lydia SGT. Hudman is #FreeToBe able to create a new life at home.  


Thank you SGT. Hudman for your service and sharing your story!  It is because of men like you, we are free!

For more information about our amazing partner, Alpha Bravo Canine, and the great work they do for veterans in Philadelphia, visit them at



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