FOUNTAIN, Colo -- A hidden gem is living large in Fountain and helping one soldier deal with PTSD in a big way. Biggie's the nearly 40 pound Sulcata tortoise of Sgt Julian Whatley.
Whatley was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder in 2008 and has also been battling cancer. I watched Biggie and Julian interact at Whatley's family home. In between mouthfuls of strawberries and grass, Biggie is a calming influence on Sgt Whatley. Whatley, who's been in the military for 23 years, tells me, "Biggie relaxes me a lot and makes me feel that I'm an important person in people's lives and there's more to life than what all we soldiers did in the deployments we had." Biggie is a reality check for Sgt Whatley, "He may not run around and fetch bones or nothing, but he's still part of the family."
Sgt. Whatley is also battling cancer. He just had surgery to remove a tumor. He thinks doctors got it all out. This 23-year Army Veteran is also intending to retire soon from the Army. Biggie helps him deal with the past, the present and the future and helps put them all in perspective, "I have a good outlook on everything with my life and my retirement coming up."
Sgt Whatley also says his experience dealing with PTSD after eight deployments in his career reinforces his message to other soldiers who may be dealing with the same problem. Whatley says, "I would want other soldiers to step up and go get help. They need to set their pride aside for a minute and get the help they need."
As far as Biggie goes, this Sulcata Tortoise will be around the Whatley family for decades to come. Biggie is a young 15 years old. He can possibly live to be up to a 100.