On October 2, 2016, USMC Lance Corporal Jake Pettit, a Fairfield native and Combat Veteran, tragically passed away after struggling with PTS. K9 Jake is named in Lance Corporal Jake Pettit’s honor and is dedicated to both serving the Fairfield community and bringing awareness to Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Jake’s death was mourned by many, but especially his family and close friends who vowed to keep Jake’s memory alive and bring awareness to the struggles of those who suffer from PTS, particularly combat veterans. Jake himself was always trying to help other veterans suffering with PTS and used social media as a platform to do so. In this spirit, Sergeant Irizarry was approached by one of Jake’s closest friends, Nick Mazurok and the concept of K9 Jake began to take form. Nick proposed using funds collected in Jake’s honor to help bring awareness to PTS through a new member of the Fairfield Police Department’s K9 Unit; Jake. Sergeant Hector Irizarry, a veteran himself and father of three sons who have served in our nation’s military, committed himself to taking over where Jake left off. He thought to himself, “why stop at just naming our next K9 after Jake, why not continue to honor Jake by bringing forward his message?
Sergeant Irizarry’s personal connection to Jake’s story began to form and some previously unknown connections emerged. A veteran himself, Sergeant Irizarry is aware of the struggles of those who have served our country. In fact, all three of his sons have served in the military (USMC, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force) with his eldest son being a combat veteran in the Marine Corp and having served in the same Afghanistan Province as Jake. Sergeant Irizarry began to feel a very close connection to this cause. With this, the vision of K9 Jake evolved to not only the standard function of a Police Service Dog, or K9, but to help other veterans and non-veterans suffering with PTS by bringing awareness to the disease and sharing Jake’s story.
One year following Jake’s death, almost to the day, The Hometown Foundation and Miller Motorcars graciously donated the funds necessary to obtain K9 Jake and so it began…the dawning of the K9 Jake PTS Awareness Project.
Since being partnered with K9 Jake in October of 2017, Sergeant Irizarry and K9 Jake have spent every day together, whether it be at home, work or training. In February of 2018, K9 Jake became certified in Narcotics detection and has since been instrumental in a number of narcotics searches and arrests.
K9 Jake’s mission is not only to protect and serve the residents and visitors of Fairfield as a dual purpose Narcotics and Tracking K9 but to also honor Lance Corporal Jake Pettit by helping bring awareness to the struggles of PTS. In order to complete this mission, Sergeant Irizarry and K9 Jake have already begun making public appearances, visiting veteran and non-veteran groups and generally spreading the PTS Awareness Message. They look forward to continuing this important mission by visiting VA Hospitals, VFW meetings and anywhere they are needed along the way.
In 2020, due to changes in department structure and leadership, Sergeant Irizarry stepped down as K9 Jake’s handler but declined to retire K9 Jake to ensure he continued his mission. K9 Jake was then partnered with Officer Daniel Chase, a veteran himself, in August 2020. K9 Jake and Officer Chase served the Town of Fairfield until K9 Jake’s retirement in 2021.
The Significance of 22
According to a Department of Veterans Affairs study, it is estimated that approximately 22 Veterans take their own lives each day. This is why K9 Jake’s mission is so vitally important. To serve as a constant reminder of this tragic number, K9 Jake was assigned Badge #22 and his police vehicle was designated as Car #22.