When US Master Sergeant Benjamin Seekell was blown into the air by a landmine in Afghanistan his first thought was of his team and Charlie, his dog.
Seekell was a military working dog handler conducting a patrol with Charlie outside the airfield when they took the near-fatal step, which would result in him losing his leg.
Charlie survived the shrapnel wounds and burst ear drums and upon retirement went to live with his former handler.
"Charlie was the best partner I ever had," Seekell told AAP.
"Him being there for my recovery was great. We obviously couldn't talk about it but I would talk to him, and he'd just kind of look at me but I knew, he knew."
The US Athletics team captain won bronze in the 1500m and long jump at Sydney's Invictus Games and competed in volleyball, shot put, discus, cycling and more.
Seekell says just as his relationship with Charlie was crucial to his recovery, he believes animals can help others in their journey.
"They sense things that we can't, they don't judge, they don't talk back, they are just there," he said.
Seekell's wife Meagan said when Charlie was alive he shared the same affection for her husband.
"Anytime Ben left he would lay by that door, I could bring him food, water, his dog bed over, he would not lay on it or have anything to do with it until he got home," she told AAP.
"He was a completely different dog once Ben walked in the door."
Seekell added the Invictus experience is just as vital for families as it is for the athletes.
"We all go home go back to our jobs, our kids – there's no flags waving, there's no people cheering – it's just them. They lift us up, they carry us, having them here's it's a small token so we can show our appreciation for everything they do for us," he said.
For Mrs Seekell it offers her an opportunity to share stories her other friends might not understand.
"I have a good friend whose husband is also participating and we get to tell stories about tripping over legs," she joked.
Australian Associated Press