An Iraq war veteran who served 12 1/2 years protecting his country would be considered a hero by most.
But for this war veteran, his hero is a generous 8-year-old girl named Rachel Mennett.
“She’s helped us accomplish so much in such a little amount of time,” Nick Bailey, 34, of North Charleston, South Carolina, told ABC News. “For an 8-year-old girl to do something like this, to me, that is just heroic."
Bailey was injured by a mortar attack while on duty in Iraq. He sustained spinal injuries and nerve damage and has undergone several surgeries to try to help his physical pain, but those aren’t the only remnants of war that ail him. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
One of Bailey’s biggest comforts throughout it all, however, has been his faithful friend-- his dog, Abel.
He and his wife, Vanessa, have had the German Shepherd ever since he was a 10-week-old puppy. Abel comforts Bailey when he’s awoken from nightmares, lays on his lap while he suffers from migraines and helps steady his balance while he walks with a cane.
But in order to truly help to the level that Bailey requires on a daily basis, Abel needs formal service dog training, which comes with a lofty price tag.
“Our original goal was to go to a trainer in Arizona who is the best of the best, but it’s $15,000,” Vanessa explained. “We never thought we’d’ be able to reach that. But every other organization we went to kept turning us down.”
The family set up a GoFundMe page in the beginning of August to try to raise at least $6,000 before taking out a loan to fulfill the rest, but it just wasn’t coming close to the amount they needed. That is, however, until little Rachel entered the picture.
“I had never met her until that day at the pet store when her brother called and said, ‘Hey, my sister is doing a lemonade stand,” Bailey recalled.
Rachel’s older brother works at a pet store in Summerville, South Carolina, where Bailey would often take Abel. Once her brother got wind that Bailey was actively searching for service training for Abel, but didn’t have the funds to afford it, he shared the story with his family.
“He took an interest to it and went home to his family and his little sister, at 8 years old, said, ‘I think I’d like to help him. I want to do a lemonade stand,’” said Bailey. “At her age, that’s amazing.”
And sure enough, that’s exactly what the determined little girl did.
Rachel set up shop in the pet store-- painted signs, Hawaiian leis and all-- to help raise money for the wounded veteran she’d never met.
“It means a great deal to me,” Bailey explained. “For a veteran like myself who sees a lot of dismay in the world today, it gives us hope for the next generation.”
The attention the lemonade stand has received has significantly helped Bailey towards his goal, something for which he is eternally grateful.
“This little girl has done so much, more than she’ll ever know,” he said. “I‘m really hoping once Abel is finally fully-trained, that he and I can go visit her at her school to do an assembly to present her with something to thank her. She’s just an exceptional child, an exceptional human being, actually.”
- Nick Bailey