A Desert Storm Army veteran is paired with his service dog, Whiskey, thanks to the generosity of area Oakmont Senior Living residents, their families, and the local American Legion veteran’s group.
On Nov. 9, Steve, a Bay City veteran whose physical condition and last name are being withheld at his request, was honored at a Veteran’s Day celebration at Oakmont Rochester Independent. There, Steve thanked the many seniors who donated to the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit that pairs canines with veterans and a limited number of first responders.
It cost $22,000 to train Whiskey, a German Shepard mix who will live with and assist Steve for the rest of his life. Guardian Angels Service Dogs typically assist those suffering from mobility issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injuries, balance challenges, and more.
“For a veteran who has PTSD, the dog is taught to mitigate the system. If they’re in a crowded room, our dog will shield or block depending on where the veteran is. If the recipient has mobility issues, the dog will pick up things that are dropped. The dog helps with balance,” said Jolanthe Bassett, Michigan Regional Coordinator of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs.
Veterans who receive dogs typically have low suicide and divorce rates in comparison with those who don’t have service animals, Bassett added.
In February, Oakmont seniors began gathering funds to donate to Guardian Angles Services Dogs. With the help of the American Legion Post 253 in Royal Oak and American Legion District 18, the seniors had raised the full amount by June.
“They felt a kinship with the veterans in our communities and were very excited to help fellow veterans,” said Martha Teller, Director of Sales and Marketing at Oakmont. “We’d like to institute this as a permanent fundraising effort in support of the veterans.”
More than 150 Oakmont seniors from the organization’s 10 properties throughout southeast Michigan attended the event. Some veterans, including those in their 90s who served during World War II, wore their respective uniforms. Original poems and special tributes thanking them for their service were read by Oakmont residents and staff.