You can have MS but MS does not have you

Veteran Brian Pettyjohn helps disabled Veterans with mental and physical challenges through outdoor experiences that include working with horses.

Sequim Gazette photo by Patricia Morrison Coate

By Marsha L Tarver, PhD, MA, VA Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence, West

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Veteran Brian Pettyjohn retired from the U.S. Army, but has not retired from life. 

He retired after 20 years in the Army serving as Sergeant Major with the 2nd Psychological Warfare Group, Washington, D.C. He traveled all over the world and also served in the 19th Special Forces Group.

His B.A. in French and Spanish from Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas was beneficial as he worked for the U.S. Army Language School.

His M.A. in Public Administration from Webster University, St. Louis, Mo., helped in his command positons and served him well after retirement as he managed various organizations.

After his second retirement as CEO of a travel agency, he got involved in numerous nonprofit groups. Pettyjohn has “always believed in giving back to his community.” He was involved in many volunteer groups in Texas, but once he moved to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State he seemed to follow the old adage, bloom where you are planted. And he definitely blossomed into the nonprofit leader for various causes.

Changing Lives as His Life Changed

Pettyjohn’s excellent leadership and business skills have changed lives in the midst of his own life changing due to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. He says that having MS — and all of the changes that occur with this disease, such as challenges with mobility and home care — did not change his desire to help others. Pettyjohn is Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 9 for Clallam, Jefferson, and North Kitsap counties in Washington, along with being active with the Clallam County Veterans Association. He organized several programs for Veterans’ families and Veterans with disabilities.

 Bloom where you are planted. 

He works with the Angels Brigade on the Olympic Peninsula program, which helps eligible surviving spouses and minor children of deceased Veterans submit applications for VA survivor benefits. The Christmas at Discovery Bay program partners with DAV to build programs to help disabled Veterans with mental and physical challenges through outdoor experiences and working with animals, specifically horses. The equine therapeutic program focuses on bringing Veterans together with horses to help with emotional healing and moving forward. This program is based on the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) model.

Believes in Making a Positive Difference

Pettyjohn also organized the North American Hay Bank to help with abused and neglected horses nationwide. In his spare time, he writes, is senior editor with Brazos River P&R Publishing Company, and is very involved with The Exchange Club providing college scholarships for students. All of these volunteer opportunities are intermixed with numerous visits to the VA medical center to help stabilize his ever-changing MS.

Army Veteran Pettyjohn is an upbeat guy who, despite living with multiple sclerosis, is working to make a positive difference in people’s lives. March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Learn more at

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