A different kind of children’s story

Published 8:34 am Thursday, November 23, 2017

COLUMBUS – Going to college is a long way from planning to stick a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger. That is how much retired USAF SSgt. Adam LeGrand’s life has turned around because of a dog. 

LeGrand is part of the K9s for Warriors project and his faithful companion is a golden retriever, yellow lab and wolfhound mix named Molly. Lake Lanier resident, Sally Hursey, featured Molly and LeGrand in her new children’s book, “Molly to the Rescue. 

The book tells Molly’s story beginning with being found in a shelter in Hendersonville, going through an extensive qualifying procedure and finally becoming LeGrand’s service dog. Hursey hosted a book signing party Monday, November 20, at the House of Flags in Columbus and both Molly and LeGrand made an appearance. 

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LeGrand shared two videos about service dogs now helping veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and talked about helping to lobby Congress to pass the Paws Act, a bi-partisan bill to include service dogs in treating veterans. 

While serving in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Air Force medic, LeGrand suffered a severe spinal injury for which he has already had two surgeries and may need more. “Of course I’ve seen too much. I can’t be a medic any more, physiologically or psychologically,” he said, adding that sharing the details of what happened to him once caused a psychotherapist to throw up. “It was that bad,” he said.  

LeGrand went on to say that he couldn’t separate himself from the traumas he had witnessed and from those he couldn’t save. “They kept coming back in my dreams,” he said. 

His voice thick with unshed tears, LeGrand continued on, telling the story of how he called his friend and told him to be sure he (LeGrand) was wearing his dress blues and his white gloves. Apparently LeGrand’s friend realized he was talking about being properly dressed for his burial, and insisted they have lunch. 

“My friend asked me where the gun was. It was in the car. I was six hours from suicide,” he said.  

After that day, LeGrand started getting help. He had to wait a long time for Molly, but apparently when they met, it was love at first sight. Molly, the rescued dog, rescued an American soldier.  

“She helps me balance and go up and down stairs,” said LeGrand who explained he has balance issues because of his injuries. “She will put herself between other people and me and watches behind me when I’m at the grocery store, the ATM, or the gas station.” 

He said the biggest thing that Molly does is wake him up when he starts having night terrors. LeGrand said Molly is much faster at waking him up and is, of course, much better than any drugs. 

LeGrand can now attend his daughter’s gym meets and has applied to Syracuse University for the Masters in Public Administration program. “I have my life back,” he said. “I can be me again instead of staying in my little hole.” 

Now LeGrand also speaks out for veterans and service dog programs. He is featured in a video that aired on CRtv. The video stated that 22 veterans a day commit suicide and that evidence shows service dogs can have a large impact on changing those numbers. LeGrand’s goal is to soon be able to lobby on Capital Hill for the Paws Act. 

More than 50 guests gathered Monday night at the House of Flags in Columbus to meet Molly, LeGrand, Hursey, and the book’s illustrator, cartoonist Peter Adams, as well as to pick up signed copies of Hursey’s book. Hursey said 80 percent of the night’s book sales would go to help K9’s for Warriors and similar programs.  

Hursey expressed her gratitude to Robert Williamson, treasurer with the House of Flags, the K9s for Veterans, and to the members of the Glory Girls group from the Tryon Presbyterian Church who created all the delicious food.