Vietnam veteran Peter Falcione of Milford’s closest comrade during war was not a fellow soldier, but his “War Dog” Shannon. Falcione’s contributions to the war effort as a pioneer in the use of scout dogs on the front lines saved lives and earned him the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, according to House of Heroes Connecticut, which rallied Saturday to thank Falcione for his service.

“The handlers I trained came home from combat alive,” says Falcione, a long-time Multiple Sclerosis sufferer who spends much of his time using a walker, wheelchair or scooter to get around.

On Saturday, a team of House of Heroes Connecticut volunteers descended upon his 263 Meadows End Road home to make a wide variety of repairs and renovations to make his home safer and more accessible. This included electrical and plumbing work, installation of grab bars and new doorways, painting and more.

About 15 of the volunteers were members of The Honorable W. Patrick Donlin Assembly #2459 of the Knights of Columbus, which partnered with House of Heroes as a project sponsor. Thanks to Assembly #2459, a new roof had already been placed on Falcione’s home.

“Helping veterans is one of the ways we support patriotism, which is the focus of our Assembly,” said Chris Neumann, Assembly #2459 Color Corps Commander. “When we learned of Peter’s story, we knew we had to help, and partnering with House of Heroes made perfect sense.”

The project was a part of House of Heroes Connecticut inaugural service weekend of the 2018 season, providing no-cost home repairs for Falcione as well as for veterans in Farmington and New Britain.

“This is a major weekend for us, serving these selfless patriots and kicking off our 2018 season during which we will complete our 100th home repair,” said House of Heroes Connecticut Executive Director Dennis Buden.

Falcione entered the service in 1968, and completed basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C., and advanced infantry school at Fort McClellan, Ala., before being assigned to scout dog handler training at Fort Banning, Ga. He graduated second in his class and was chosen to pioneer an experimental program to release scouting dogs and have them work without a leash.

Falcione served with his scout dog for six months in Vietnam. He was assigned to Long Bien, training young handlers.

Falcione served his entire time in Vietnam suffering from undiagnosed MS, dealing with frequent bouts of partial paralysis, extreme fatigue and spasms. His condition was ultimately diagnosed in 1973.

“I still try to do as much as possible rather than surrender and spend the rest of my life in bed,” he said. “I continue to pursue my life as though I am not handicapped. I will never give up.”

On Saturday, it wasn’t just the volunteers that pitched in for Falcione. Peter’s wife, Pat, said that as the team was setting up, the owner of Lasse’s Restaurant in Milford happened to drive by, stopped, and offered to bring roast beef sandwiches for the team of workers.

Founded in January, 2000, in Columbus, Ga., House of Heroes serves veterans who are disabled, living on a fixed income, or facing other physical/financial challenges. Minor repairs and upgrades are performed by teams of volunteers at no cost to the veteran. More than 1,000 projects have been completed nationwide.

For more information about House of Heroes Connecticut, to nominate a veteran, volunteer for a project, to support our 100th Home project or simply donate to the cause, visit hohct.org.