Home­town Hero Walk hon­ors vet­er­ans

North Penn Life - - ACCENT - By Ali­son Wal­lach 21st Cen­tury Me­dia News Ser­vice

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.

Pho­tos by ALI­SON WAL­LACH

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.

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