By Victoria Wolk

 

More than 1,000 community members arrived at Trinity Lutheran Church for Lansdale’s third annual Hero Walk June 13. The event is part of the PA Hero Walk, a 320-mile walk across the state to raise money for veterans’ organizations.



The PA Hero Walk began six years ago when a dozen volunteers walked from Philadelphia to New Kensington, just outside of Pittsburgh, raising $60,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project along the way. One of those volunteers was Michael Bishop “Bish” Rieg, who has participated in the walk each year since. Three years ago, he brought the Hero Walk to Lansdale.



This year, the proceeds of the PA Hero Walk will no longer be going to the Wounded Warrior Project, said the event’s founder, Al Pulice.


“We’re going to keep the money right here in Pennsylvania,” he said.



The money will be distributed to organizations across the state, including the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia, the Semper Fi Outdoor Odyssey in Boswell, the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center in Cowansville, the Wounded Warrior Patrol in Carlisle and Operation Homefront, according to the PA Hero Walk’s website.



Before the local walk kicked off, participants heard from United States Army Sgt. John Fleming, a local Iraq War veteran who is now retired.



Fleming first joined the Army when he was younger, and he was inspired to re-enlist after 9/11. Coming from an older generation, he was a bit hesitant to work alongside a much younger group of soldiers.



“We had long hair when I was a kid,” he said, “but the kids today, with baggy pants — I thought, ‘God forbid we go to war, who’s going to fight?’ But I will tell you that I would soon eat those words. ... This younger generation really made me proud to be an American again.”


During his second tour in Iraq, “things were out of control,” Fleming said. There were 83 soldiers killed in action and another 350 wounded. As hard as it was for him to witness that kind of suffering, he said, it was much worse for the younger soldiers. “When you’re 19 or 20-years-old and you lose somebody, it’s violent.”



When Fleming was first training for that tour, he was in barracks with a group of younger soldiers who were “noisy as hell” at night,” he said. “When we came home to the same base, the first night it was dead silent. ... Every night there was a guy having a nightmare, falling out of his bunk.” There were two suicides in Fleming’s platoon alone.

 

“I think we owe these kids to do the best we can,” he said, referencing the recent troubles with the VA. But it’s not just Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who need help. “The Vietnam vets got nothing and were left to figure it out on their own,” Fleming said. Although the VA doesn’t track the number of veterans who commit suicide, he explained, many of them fought in Vietnam.



After Fleming spoke about his experiences in the Army, the walkers heard from Pulice, who founded the PA Hero Walk in 2009. He thanked them for supporting veterans for the past three years.



“You’re out to do something today, to make a change in your country,” he said.



The following day, Pulice, Rieg and a small group of walkers began their 320-mile journey across the state, which will take them two weeks to complete.

Anonymous - Philadelphia, PA

"I am the wife of a Viet Nam Veteran. My husband started going to PVMSEC 10 years ago for help. No mere words could ever express how much his life and in turn our family life has changed for the better in those years. I am and always will be grateful for the wonderful care he has received at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center & Education Center."

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    The Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC), invites you to participate in our Annual Veterans Golf Outing!

     

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    Golf Outing Event Details:

    Date: Monday, September 17th, 2018

    Time: 10:30 AM Registration, 12:00PM Shot Gun Start

    Location: Indian Valley Country Club, 650 Bergey Road, Telford, PA 18969

     

    All proceeds from this Tournament support the VMC, a local 501(c)(3) Non-Profit organization dedicated to providing services, programs, opportunity and advancement to the US Military Veterans and their families. With supporters like YOU, all services are offered to Veterans free of charge.

     

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    For more information about this tournament, please contact Bob Lord (215)262-3506 or Scott Bishop (215)872-4929.   

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