Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Navy SEAL, dog handler speaking at SMC Sept. 14

08/03/2017 - 1pm
James Hatch, founder of Spike's K9 Fund

Jimmy Hatch, retired Navy Special Warfare Operator and founder of Spike’s K9 Fund, speaks at Southwestern Michigan College Thursday, Sept. 14, on “going from being on top to getting wounded and having my crew help me get back up and become an asset to my country and family.”

“Essentially,” Hatch said, “how to come back from a significant setback.”

His was a leg injury July 9, 2009, trying to rescue Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that ended his career after almost 26 years.

Hatch, who carried out 150 direct combat missions as an elite Navy SEAL, needed 18 surgeries in two years on his shattered femur.

Another handler’s dog, Remco, was mortally wounded, saving their lives by exposing the enemy’s position and drawing fire.

Hatch’s dog, Spike, died in his arms in Iraq in 2006.

Hatch, 50, shared the dramatic rescue attempt story with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” in 2015.

“The goal is to get the kid,” Hatch tells Cooper. “He was an American and he had a mom. I didn’t want his mom to see him get his head chopped off on YouTube.”

The Taliban held Bergdahl for more than five years after U.S. authorities said he deserted his unit in Afghanistan. A controversial prisoner swap returned Bergdahl to the United States in 2014.

Cooper featured Hatch again June 12 in a follow-up segment for “Champions for Change” about raising funds to train, care for and protect “hair missiles” during their careers and in retirement.

“Jimmy Hatch is no longer wearing a uniform,” Cooper concluded, “but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to serve our country and it hasn’t stopped him from continuing to fight to keep all of us safe.”

The non-profit Spike’s K9 Fund’s slogan is, “Dogs saved me. My mission is to take care of them.”

Spike’s K9 Fund has provided protective equipment and medical assistance to 353 canines in 29 states.

“Powerful as they are, they can’t advocate for themselves when they need help,” Hatch said.

Cooper, whom Hatch persuaded to skydive despite a fear of heights, “has been responsible for protecting several hundred police canines, directly through donations or indirectly by choosing to represent our organization on the stage he has access to,” Hatch said.

Hatch’s charity outfits dogs with custom-made, lightweight, $2,500 bulletproof vests.

The public is invited to hear Hatch, who will be accompanied from Virginia Beach, Va., to Dowagiac by his service dog, Mina, at 7 p.m. in the theatre of the Student Activity Center.

He addresses students earlier in the day.

SMC President Dr. David Mathews met Hatch in Ohio last March as keynote speaker at a skydiving safety day luncheon.

Testimonies abound to the power of Hatch’s message.

At one appearance, paired with a New York Times bestselling author, “While the author was an excellent speaker and had a solid message, Mr. Hatch stole the show. During Q&A, 100-percent of the questions were directed at him.”

Speaking to 350 Massachusetts first responders, “Jimmy delivered the most powerful presentation I’ve ever heard. His humility, candor, humor and warrior spirit brought us all from laughs to tears. His story of courage on the battlefield to courage battling through inner struggles after being wounded showed us what bravery is — the ability to ask for help. The impact was profound and provided immediate clarity to people undergoing similar battles.”

Hatch received “nothing but positive feedback” in Philadelphia.

“I was impressed you could keep the crowd of over 200 people engaged after lunch and as the last speaker of the day. I watched the dynamics in the room. You could hear a pin drop as they listened to your incredible experiences.”