GAINESVILLE — Gainesville has a real life Tony Stark in James Coats. Coats is an inventor/CEO of Phalanx Defense Systems, a company that creates body armor for first responders, and he also is a philanthropist, giving local schools equipment for robotics programs and running his own charity called Superheroes For Hope that provides extraordinary superhero encounters for children living through the challenges of childhood diseases.
He now encounters a second Tony Stark that lives up to the name with his mission of compassion and protection in his work as a service dog. Coats sponsored the training of Tony Stark through an organization called Service Dogs For Patriots.
Michelle Dunlap, Executive Director for Service Dogs For Patriots, said Tony was selected as a service dog from the RMC Paw Camp Program because he was inquisitive and could be trained to notice the subtle changes that indicate a PTSD episode. She said, “Tony is very much the canine version of the character.”
Dunlap had heard of Coats and Phalanx Defense Systems on social media for the events they have thrown that celebrate first responders. “They just want to make the world a better place, and that is just like what we want,” said Dunlap.
In a speaking engagement where Dunlap was in the crowd, Coats had mentioned that he was like the real life Tony Stark and that stuck with her. “After hearing that, I had to reach out,” she continued.
Under Coats’ sponsorship, Tony is receiving 45 training sessions so he is equipped to identify and mitigate the symptoms of PTSD. Tony is already working with his new owner, Retired Army Staff Sergeant Rodney Fausnaugh. Fausnaugh joined the US Army in 1987, serving in Kuwait, Iraq and Somalia. He then accepted a position as a VA Police Officer where he single-handedly disarmed an active shooter who had a high caliber rifle and bags of ammunition.
Coats said, “At Phalanx, we’re using innovation to protect our heroic first responders, so it’s our pleasure to support the efforts of a program that renews the quality of life for those who’ve spent many years protecting us.”
With Tony’s help, Fausnaugh and his family are now enjoying more outings together.