LOS ANGELES, July 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) employee and Army Sergeant Major Jesse Acosta is a true American hero. Acosta was serving in the Army because, after working for SoCalGas for 20 years, he had a call to return to active duty. While serving in Iraq and commanding 43 soldiers he routinely ordered them to dive for cover. In 2006, he was doing just that when he was hit by a mortar, lost both of his eyes, and destroyed the nerve that controls his taste and smell and nicked his brain and suffered other serious injuries. He had to endure many painful surgeries and re-learn simple tasks.
After Acosta had time to heal, SoCalGas welcomed him back with open arms. He is now working as a customer service field analyst for SoCalGas' Orange Coast Region. Acosta credits the company and others for helping him find his way back, but he says his true hero is his German Shepard "Charlie Boy." In fact, Charlie Boy and Acosta can be seen everywhere together at work and the dog even wears a company badge.
Charlie Boy waits patiently near Acosta's desk while he works at his job helping SoCalGas improve the services it offers for its blind and vision-impaired customers.
"We are so proud of Jesse and his heroism and service to our country – and now his continued service to our company," said Hal Snyder, vice president of HR, Diversity & Inclusion at SoCalGas. "We are committed to a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve and Jesse is an example of overcoming obstacles and pushing ahead to succeed not only at SoCalGas but as an inspiration to so many others."
"When I first met Charlie Boy, I almost cried," Acosta said. "I knew he would guide me to the freedom that I was told I'd never have because my injuries left me incompetent for a guide dog. But I passed a course at a private school for the blind, which endorsed me for a dog through The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J."
"He's not just a guide dog, he senses when I experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Acosta added. "Since we met in 2007, Charlie Boy has motivated me to travel independently and has safely guided me to speak at The White House and across the U.S. and Mexico. Wounded warriors, disabled children and others who meet him also feel the calmness he brings to me. He is my little buddy. He is my soul."
Charlie Boy is running in a competition for The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. To honor Acosta for his service and to vote for Charlie Boy, go to the Hero Dog Award website and vote for Charlie Boy under the "Guide Dog" category by July 30.
Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years. It is the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.9 million consumers through nearly 5.8 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company's service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. SoCalGas is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company.
SOURCE Southern California Gas Co.