Hometown Hero Walk honors veterans
7KUHH flLJKW GHODyV FRuOG not prevent Cynthia Parsons from travelling from Detroit, Mich., to Lansdale’s Hometown Hero Walk June 8, speaking on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project’s “Warriors Speak” initiative.
“Come heck or high water I was going to be here ... I knew I couldn’t miss this beautiful event because of all of you,” Parsons said, addressing the crowd of almost 1,000 people who formed a sea of red shirts outside of the Trinity Lutheran Church.
In 2006, Parsons’ son, Shane, was serving as an Army staff sergeant in Iraq when an IED detonated in front of his vehicle, ultimately leaving Shane as an aboveknee bilateral amputee with severe brain damage. Shane suffered from three cardiac arrests as a result of the accident and spent more than four years in rehabilitative care in several hospitals, including the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
In honor and support of veterans like Shane who risked their lives serving our country, local military veterans and their families, friends and neighbors walked 2.5 miles to raise awareness of and funds for the Wounded Warrior 3URMHFW, D nRnSURfiW, nRnSDUWLsan organization that provides direct aid and rehabilitation programs to returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jeremy Feldbusch, the fiUVW ::3 VSRNHVPDn DnG a blinded veteran of the Iraq War, inspired Al Pulice to orJDnLzH WKH fiUVW 3$ HHUR :DON in 2009 to raise money for and awareness of the WWP. DuULnJ WKDW fiUVW yHDU, 11 RWKers joined Pulice in trekking 320 miles across Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to New Kensington, raising A60,000.
The PA Hero Walk stakes its claim as the No. 1 source of donations to the WWP, with a total that now reaches more than A300,000. On June 9, eight people accompanied Pulice in his journey across Pennsylvania, to be joined by upwards of 3,000 others, who will walk as many of the 320 miles as they can.
When asked what motivates Pulice to walk each year, he responded, “It’s the help that I see these soldiers getting. When we walk into these towns, and if a young man or woman just came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, they see that Pennsylvania really cares about what they’ve done.”
CDPRuflDJH VKLUWV GHnRWHG returning Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, and for them, the Hometown Hero Walk demonstrated a strong sense of community support on which they can rely.
“Something this big so close to home really means a lot,” said Zach Valko, of Phoenixville, who recently HnGHG KLV fivH-yHDU WRuU RI duty with the Army. “From visiting friends in the hospital, there was always a representative from the Wounded Warrior Project — talking to people, showing their support and letting them know that there’s a whole community. I think the biggest thing that they do is connect each other; they connect all the veterans, so they have that support network behind them,” he said.
To show the support of the PA Hero Walk and the WWP on a local level, eight locations across Pennsylvania will feature Hometown Hero Walks, with Lansdale’s Walk serving as the largest, bringing in almost A40,000 this year.
Former Army artillery observer and event organizer Michael Bishop Rieg has distributed more than 3,000 business cards and sold countless promotional items during the past two years to help fund the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I used to be shy about begging, but I am not shy anymore if it involves veterans’ issues. I use the ‘15 second rule’ — be prepared to tell the story of the Wounded Warrior Project and PA Hero Walk to every person I meet and do it in 15 seconds,” said Rieg of his fundraising efforts. “I feel that getting others to contribute and donate and be- come part of a cause that is bigger than oneself,” Rieg added.
Students from Montgomery County Community College’s Student Nurses Club also contributed to the cause, volunWHHULnJ WR VHOO UDIflH WLFNHWV, WKH SURFHHGV RI ZKLFK EHnHfiW both the WWP and the Trees for Troops program, which provides Christmas trees to members of the armed forces and their families.
“It’s a wonderful project. I’m so honored to be able to do this and help the military personnel. They have done so much for us, and we are so appreciative of what they do. And I’m very proud of my students,” said Christine Dunigan, advisor of the Student Nurses Club and assistant professor of nursing at MCCC.
Walkers and volunteers echoed the gratitude Dunigan expressed for the troops. Each one told of a different story of a family member or friend who served, or simply felt inspired to join the cause by the stories they gathered from the media. Those who addressed the volunteers shared their own stories, both in search of support and an effort to educate.
Parsons spoke of the “invisible wounds of war,” or the psychological, emotional and mental damage that too often goes overlooked and misunderstood by society. It’s from the failure to address these wounds, she said, that caused the suicide rate of returning soldiers to climb higher than the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan during the past year.
“We need to change that,” she said, “I’ve come across warriors who have their legs and their arms, they have no physical wounds, and they don’t feel like they’re a wounded veteran ... it doesn’t matter — you’re hurting, and you’re not the person that you were when you come back.”
Craig Shadle shared the story of the loss of his son, Andrew William Shadle, a graduate of North Penn High School and a Marine who served in Afghanistan. Shadle reiterated the words of his son who wished that people would, “‘Put their words into action, and do something for the wounded warriors.’”
For Vicki Carpenter, whose father, sister and boyfriend have served in the armed forces, the event meant raising awareness of the Wounded Warriors Project and of the veterans in our community who continue to struggle.
“We’re able to get out here and help support the community and the veterans and get the word out,” she said.
“These guys put their lives on the line and some people didn’t come back whole. So to give back to them means everything,” added Brian Mabry, former member of the Navy.
For more information on how you can help wounded Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, visit http://www. woundedwarriorproject.org.
For more information on the PA Hero Walk, visit http:// www.paherowalk.org.
More than 1,000 people take to the streets June 8 for the Lansdale Hometown Hero Walk 2013.
Shawn Hawk Hawk, who served six years in the Marine Corps and 20 years in the Air Force, gets ready to walk for the troops at the 2013 Hero Walk in Lansdale June 8.