When we sat down to talk to Chris Ann Phillips, she insisted on talking about horses, hounds and hockey. You can watch the full interview below, but we’ll give you the highlights here.
The Marine veteran was voted the 2023 Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year based on her life’s work of ending veteran suicide primarily through three initiatives: equestrian therapy, service dogs and Pittsburgh Warriors Hockey, a team of combat-wounded veterans that plays similar teams from around the country.
“This is healing through hockey and it’s a mechanism to give those individuals the comradery in the locker room and those types of things that they need to share with those that have similar experiences,” said Phillips, who serves on the board of directors. “I get to be part of this organization and get challenged every day to help move them forward.”
The Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year award is presented by Military Friendly® to one of the region’s outstanding veterans who demonstrates leadership, teamwork and a commitment to serving others. The award is sponsored by Fort Pitt Capital Group.
Phillips served as the former chief administrative officer for Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to those struggling with a variety of disorders, including PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, seizure disorders and mobility issues. Phillips got involved with Guardian Angels while she was building the military recruiting program for PNC Bank. She helped start the Mutt Strut in Pittsburgh, an annual fundraiser for Guardian Angels.
“Our mission is to save lives, period. That’s the mission, save lives. We’ve got to figure out how to get service dogs in the hands of our veterans that need them the most,” Phillips said.
Phillips also is passionate about equestrian therapy.
“I don’t think people realize just how important horses are and that these big gentle giants, they do wonders,” she said. “It’s not only the care of the animal, but it’s what the animal can do for you.”
Horses, hounds and hockey only scratch the surface of Phillips’ 25 years of serving her fellow veterans. She served as an American Corporate Partners mentor and received the ESGR Patriot Award. She was a two-time finalist for the US Chamber of Commerce’s Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment. Phillips served as the chief of staff for the Military Employee Business Resource Group at PNC. She also established the Military Advisory Council at PNC and other local businesses.
“I am really, really passionate about the veteran’s space and about ending veteran suicide. We’ve got to come up with some answers. We’re still losing too many of our brothers and sisters to suicide because they don’t know where to go, they don’t know who to talk to, and so we’ve got to figure out where the missing link is.”
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