Iraq War veteran talks about life with a service dog at Lake Barrington Shores
Marie Roth (right) of Long Grove created an American flag that was presented to Frank Pierson and his wife, Arielle, on Feb. 9 at Lake Barrington Shores. Pierson lost both his legs while serving in Iraq. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:48AM
LAKE BARRINGTON — Army Specialist Frank Pierson’s dog is a friend, companion and working buddy.
“Service dogs are not just normal dogs,” said Pierson, commenting on his life with his service dog, six-year-old black Lab Leo.
“He’s a big help to me,” he continued. “He’s a fantastic friend.”
Pierson, who was wounded in the Iraq War, spoke with his wife Arielle at a reception Feb. 9 at Lake Barrington Shores to help raise awareness and funds for The Tower of Hope.
Pierson and Leo were joined together through the efforts of The Tower of Hope, which funds service dogs for wounded vets. Leo was trained, then Pierson and Leo trained together.
“Leo is a people person,” Pierson said. “If it brings you one step closer to being back to normal, then he’s done his job. He picks up things, he carries groceries. When he sees his work vest, he wags his tail. Leo uses an escalator. It’s pretty cool to see a dog use an escalator.”
Pierson also said that service dogs have proved a great way for veterans to get out. He’s met a lot of teams of soldiers and their service animals.
The Pierson’s and Leo were invited to Lake Barrington Shores thanks to the efforts of Kathleen L. McCann of the LBS Brushstrokes artist group. She found out about The Tower of Hope two years ago and has dedicated time and effort to them ever since.
Brushstrokes members have painted pet portraits to raise funds for The Tower of Hope, which was started by the widow of a 9/11 victim. Training a service dog for a veteran takes time and about $25,000.
“We’re on a mission to get a dog (for a vet) and we’re not going to stop,” McCann said.
Marie Roth of the Long Grove Artists Guild, who also spoke at the Tower of Hope event, painted an American flag on a section of reclaimed wood from an old barn. The 50 stars were painted by veterans and others. She displayed and then presented the flag to the Pierson’s.
The reception also was supported by the Veterans of LBS, the Ladies and Men’s Clubs and the Community Affairs Commission. Twenty-nine Barrington area sponsors, both corporate and individual, were also involved. About 15 silent auction items raised $1,800 for The Tower of Hope.
Reflecting on the event, McCann said: “What I loved the best is how the reception was so well received by LBS. The community came together to honor a veteran who lost his legs in Iraq. It all makes me feel that we did something right.”
Tom Gilder, an organizer from the Veterans of LBS, added: “We all worked to make this a reality to bring awareness of The Tower of Hope. We achieved pretty fantastic results.”
For more information, visit www.thetowerofhope.org.