2009-07-02 / Local & State

Pennsylvania Wounded Warrior Hero Walk Stops Here

Participants Hosted by VFW

Pennsylvania Hero walkers, VFW officers and supporters pose in front of the group's support RV Sunday following their walk from Fayetteville to McConnellsburg. Pictured in the front row are Joe Gross, Wounded Warrior organizer who lost his leg fighting in Baghdad; Robert Huffman, VFW commander; Al Pulice, Hero Walk director; Ed Stenger, FOVA president; and walker Michael Rieg. Pennsylvania Hero walkers, VFW officers and supporters pose in front of the group's support RV Sunday following their walk from Fayetteville to McConnellsburg. Pictured in the front row are Joe Gross, Wounded Warrior organizer who lost his leg fighting in Baghdad; Robert Huffman, VFW commander; Al Pulice, Hero Walk director; Ed Stenger, FOVA president; and walker Michael Rieg. STAFF REPORT

Officers and members of VFW Post 561 hosted about 15 members from the Kiski Valley Veterans and Patriots Association Sunday evening at the VFW home in McConnellsburg following their day's trek for the Pennsylvania Hero walk.

The Hero Walk set off on June 21 from Philadelphia to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. The walkers are retracing the Forbes Trail, most of which is now U.S. Route 30. They plan to arrive at Valley High School Memorial Stadium in New Kensington, near Pittsburgh, on July 4. A benefit concert will then be held at that site and will conclude with a fireworks display.

Al Pulice, Hero Walk director, of Pittsburgh said his group's goal is to raise $250,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. The group had already raised more than $60,000 by last Sunday. The Wounded Warrior Project based in Jacksonville, Fla., is a nationally known fundraising support group for severely wounded Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans and their families.

Two "wounded warriors" - Joe gross from Ohio and Chris Bain from Williamsport, Pa. - are also making the walk across Pennsylvania, helping to organize and raise money for the Warrior Project.

Gross, who lost his right leg fighting in Bagdad in 2005, talked about how much the Wounded Warrior backpack meant to him after he arrived in hospital. "I literally had nothing when I got to Walter Reed. Nothing but a hospital gown. Everything was back in country," he said. "The backpack that I was given had the essential and comfort things I needed. To this day I have the shirt that was included in the backpack. It meant everything to have that backpack. You felt like a normal person again," he said.

According the project's Web site, Wounded Warrior backpacks contain essential care items, including clothing, toiletries, calling card, CD player, and playing cards, all designed to make the hospital stay more comfortable. They are provided to severely wounded service members arriving at military trauma centers.

Chris Bain from Williamsport, Pa., had both arms badly mangled by mortar fire in fighting around Al-Taji, Iraq, in 2004. He refused to allow his arms to be amputated and faces years of experimental surgery. Talking about the Wounded Warrior Project, Bain said, "They do so much for us. It's no problem to give back. It's warrior helping warrior and helping to raise awareness."

As the walkers arrived back at their support RV in the VFW parking lot, they were greeted by motorists and spectators, many of whom stopped to talk and make donations to the project. Also accompanying the Hero Walk is Armstrong County Commissioner Jim Scahill, who is dressed in period clothing as Gen. John Forbes.

Ed Stenger, president of the FOVA, said the VFW Post was given Hero Walk collection canisters to place in the community and arrangements were made for the group to make an overnight stop in McConnellsburg. When the walkers arrived they were all treated to dinner at the Post Home. In addition VFW Post 561 made a $200 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.

People wishing to make a donation to the PA Hero Walk in support of the Wounded Warrior Project can go to paherowalk.org

Monday morning the Hero walkers were back on Route 30 heading for Everett. By July 4 they will have walked 342 miles across Pennsylvania and hopefully raised $250,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

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