By Spc. Noelle WieheMay 9, 2018
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Gibson, a counterfire officer with 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery pulls into Second Chances Equine Rescue, Inc., in his blue truck after attending a 5 p.m. officer meeting.
He and his wife Melanie, as well as several other 3rd ID Soldiers, visit Second Chances Equine Rescue, Inc., a non-profit organization in the state of Georgia, at least four times a week and dedicate their evenings to horses in need of care and attention.
The organization was founded in August 2013 by Andrea Doolittle, a U.S. Air Force veteran after she saved two horses from being sent to a slaughterhouse.
Doolittle, through the organization, has since given a home, if even temporary, to a total of 178 horses to date.
The mission is to assist and educate horse owners, rehome, rescue, rehabilitate, adopt or offer sanctuary to horses in need, Doolittle said .
Gibson, along with other volunteers, helps the rescue by spending time with the horses, feeding and cleaning them, performing property maintenance and ensuring they get proper exercise.
"We love it out here," Gibson said. "It's amazing how much these horses just want to be loved. It's the coolest place around, I think."
Melanie said she suffered from crippling migraines, but after coming to the rescue on a regular basis, her headaches have disappeared. She has a special fondness for the burros - small donkeys - that also reside on the property.
"Our main goal is to save as many babies (horses) as possible, but if we can save a few humans along the way, let's do that," Doolittle said.
The organization receives help from a constant rotation of military volunteers, but due to deployments, permanent changes of duty station, and extensive leave days, they are always seeking more help , Doolittle said.
"We're okay with (the rotation of volunteers) because that means we get to help more and we get to love more, and we get to meet more," Doolittle said. "It just works."
Each volunteer has their favorite horse, based on their different personalities, but each horse is cared for based on their specific need, Doolittle said.
"It is an experience being in the field with the horses," Gibson said.
Spc. Nicole Stanford, 10th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, said she has been volunteering with the horses for two years and even brings her 3-month-old daughter, Amelia.
"I'm addicted to this place," Stanford said. "It's an amazing feeling when you go to these creatures, and you're having a down day - they feel it."
Stanford has her top four favorite horses, but has genuinely bonded with a horse named Nick, who she said is a sweetheart.
"It is an absolute stress reliever," Stanford said. "Everyone is broken in their own way - whether it is the horses or us - but we heal each other."
Doolittle said she is giving second chances to not only her horses but to the Soldiers as well.
"Everybody can give love, and the horses will give it right back to you," Doolittle said. "We give (the horses) the time they need; we give people the time they need. It has a purpose, and it all meshes together rather well."
The Second Chances Volunteer Program is open to everyone - any age and level of experience. For information on the organization or to find out about volunteering, visit www.scer-ga.org or call Andrea Doolittle at 912-385-8512.