TEMPLE, Texas — A Temple veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years turned his experience training soldiers into a career training dogs.
Mike Pierce transitioned from being a leader of men, to teaching man's best friend.
“I was a 14 Tango Patriot crew member,” Mike Pierce said. “So if anyone remembers the Gulf War, the 'scuds' were coming down, there was a missile that was shot off by American forces. That was the Patriot missile."
Pierce said his job was to transport and set up the missile system at specific locations, as well as making sure communication was online.
Pierce was stationed in Korea, at Fort Hood, and all over the world.
“Saudi, I went there at least two times. Germany, that was my first duty station," he said.
Although he didn’t deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, he trained many soldiers who did.
“I wasn't in Afghanistan or Iraq, which I’m okay with in some ways, but in other ways I struggle with it," Pierce said. "But that wasn’t my job. I focused on taking care of the soldiers and making sure they knew their job.”
Pierce retired from the Army in 2013. He said he enjoyed the structure and rigidness.
“I enjoyed teaching, I enjoyed mentoring, but most of all taking care of the soldiers that was my most rewarding experience ever,” he said.
Pierce said working with dogs and their owners is therapeutic to him.
"As I grow and progress with dog training, it's help me immensely both internally and externally."
Pierce's business, Loose Leash Happy Paws, has helped him through some tough times.
“I did struggle and I still struggle. It’s just something you learn to cope with,” he said.
He said taking care of his dogs and his clients, has given him a new life and purpose.
“Teaching the owner how to communicate effectively, it’s really rewarding to me,” Pierce said.
Voices of the Brave airs every third Thursday of the month on KCEN at 10 p.m. If you or someone you know is a veteran who’d like to have their story shared, send Leslie Draffin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.