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Groups team up to build home for wounded Marine in Virginia

Sgt. John Peck

BUILDING FOR AMERICA'S BRAVEST

By JEFF BRANSCOME | The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. | Published: July 20, 2012

Sgt. John Peck says he remembers everything.

An explosion sent him flying, and he was in excruciating pain. He recalls saying that he didn't want to die.

"I could see four guys working on me, so I knew something was pretty messed up," Peck said.

He blacked out and was on a stretcher near a helicopter when he woke up. A helicopter medic told Peck he was going to be OK, but that he'd be asleep for a little bit.

He woke up about two months later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Peck, 26, who is in the U.S. Marine Corps, lost his arms and legs after stepping on an improvised explosive devise while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

He's being rewarded for his sacrifice with a new $500,000 home in Spotsylvania County's Estates of Chancellorsville. He and some 50 supporters attended a contract-signing ceremony Thursday at the vacant lot where his house will be built. The land is not far from where the Civil War raged in 1863.

Building for America's Bravest — a partnership with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation — made the project possible.

Other organizations have also pitched in, including the Semper Fi Fund with a $25,000 donation and Hope for the Warriors with a $50,000 grant to help furnish the home.

The residence, which will have a state-of-the-art electronics system to help Peck live as independently as possible, is being built by the Fredericksburg area's American Heritage Homes.

It's scheduled to be finished in November.

"It's going to be very interesting because we haven't built a house for someone in his position," said Kristen Pruitt, president of American Heritage Homes.

Peck's mother, Lisa Peck, thanked everybody involved for helping her son and other wounded warriors. "I just want everybody to know that when you're a mother and you have a child, you always want them to be their best when they grow up, and I never in my life imagined that my son would turn out the way he did," she said at Thursday's event. "I'm so proud of you, John."

Peck suffered a brain injury in an IED blast in Iraq a couple of years before his deployment to Afghanistan. He is one of five troops who survived after losing all of their limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"This man has survived two IED blasts in two different parts of the world serving our country," said John Hodge, director of operations for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. "There aren't too many of them out there like Sgt. John Peck."

Building for America's Bravest is constructing 14 houses this year for severely wounded veterans, Hodge said.

He credited actor Gary Sinise--who played Lt. Dan in the Academy Award-winning movie "Forrest Gump"--with raising $200,000 through concerts and donating another $100,000 for the residence.

"This is really going to be the house that Gary Sinise built for John Peck," Hodge said.

Peck, speaking to the crowd Thursday from his motorized wheelchair, displayed his sense of humor, despite all he's been through.

"I thought I was sweating, but I feel so bad for them," he said, referring to two Civil War re-enactors standing behind him. "These guys are covered in wool."

After the formalities, a retired Marine and future neighbor introduced himself to Peck. "So you're a Marine, huh," Peck said. "I saw three or four of them."

Peck was referring to homes in the neighborhood with Marine Corps flags out front.

He said it's great to know he's close to a lot of fellow Marines.

He's from Illinois, but the Spotsylvania location appealed to him because of its proximity to job opportunities and medical care that he'll need for the rest of his life.

"I'm probably going to be the lowest-ranking, youngest guy that actually owns his own house here," Peck said.
 

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