“I didn’t think this many people cared!”
Wounded not once, but twice in two different wars, Marine Cpl John Peck came home last week to Antioch, IL and found that his country does indeed care!
Cpl Peck was escorted home by the Antioch police and fire departments.
Photo: LCpl John Peck
Estimates say that nearly 2,000 people lined the streets of the route to Peck’s home. Flags were waving and the sound of people clapping could be heard as Peck was escorted home for his first visit since losing both legs and an arm in Afghanistan. He battled severe infection from a wound in his stomach that refused to heal. Doctors tried to save his remaining arm, but they eventually had to amputate a portion of that as well.
“I didn’t think this many people cared,” he said.
“You really don’t see it in Washington,” Peck said “We’re kind of sheltered from the outside.”
An Antioch township resident, John Peck, graduated from Rockford Jefferson High School in 2004. His wife, two sisters and parents Zenio and Lisa Krutyholowa currently reside there. While visiting his parents , he must remain in a hotel room each night as the family home cannot accommodate his motorized wheelchair down the hallways or into the bedroom, bath or kitchen areas even though there is a ramp leading up to the house.
Peck described his return as “amazing” and along with his week-long visit the Antioch VFW hosted a fundraiser and a blood drive was held on Monday in his honor.
His mother who works for Life Source, wanted to give back what others had given for John. Throughout his multiple surgeries, she kept track of just how many pints of blood (41), units of plasma (35) and units of platelets (5) that John received.
“I kept coming back to tell my friends at work what he’d gotten,” Krutyholowa said. “I wanted Chicagoland to give that back.”
It was also special in another way. He was home for Mother’s Day!
One veteran who was a combat engineer in Vietnam and a member of the Antioch VFW spent time waiting curbside to be able to greet the Sgt on his arrival. “I didn’t give up anything,” said Frederick Vaughn. “He gave up a lot.”
At a dinner held in Cpl Peck’s honor back in Washington, DC area in October of 2010 prior to the running of the Marine Corps Marathon (2010 MCM), a young lady was introduced to Cpl Peck.
The smiles say more than words can ever do justice to!
“The photo of him with the man and little girl is one of our team members and his daughter. She was introduced to Cpl Peck as a hero. She stated that it was the first time she had ever met a real hero.... very touching moment,” said Jeremy Soles. Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Soles with Team X-T.R.E.M.E..
In 2007, Peck was serving in Iraq when he was first wounded. The vehicle he was riding in while manning the turret gun hit an IED. Peck was left with vision and hearing problems as a result. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which nearly killed him. Did that mean his time as a Marine was over? No!
"He was already injured. He wanted to go back again and serve his country. That tells me I did a good job because I can be proud of my son," said Lisa Krutyholowa, Corporal Peck's mother.
Cpl Peck was married on Valentine’s Day of 2010.
On May 24, 2010 life once again changed dramatically for Peck. At the age of 24, Sgt Peck was then serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines Weapons Company as a mortar man. Peck was out on patrol when he stepped on an IED triggering it. The resulting blast amputated Sgt Peck’s legs, part of one arm, several damaging his other arm and wounding him severely in the stomach . As a result of later complications, doctors ended up amputating part of his other remaining arm.
A prayer request was started on May 31, 2010 at Leatherneck.com forum.
Cpl Peck received treatment in Germany was later transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital and currently is undergoing treatment and therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Approximately one year ago, Marine Sgt Soles, an OEF veteran, founded Team X-T.R.E.M.E. (Train, Rehabilitate, Empower, Motivate, Endure) a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness for wounded veterans.
What makes this group different from others is the way in which they raise awareness of the struggles encountered by disabled service members. They attempt rigorous physical challenges, such as running the 2010 Marine Corp Marathon while wearing an Avon Protection C50 gas mask, with filter for the entire length of the marathon. The filter creates resistance to oxygen flowing in by up 30 percent…….in other words; Sgt Soles had his oxygen intake restricted by 30% for the entire 26.2 mile run. It took him 4 hrs, 29 minutes and 3 seconds to finish. After crossing the finish line, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for “fastest run with a gas mask.”
How does this relate to Cpl Peck? Sgt Soles first met Cpl Peck on October 8, 2010. Sgt Soles wasn’t sure what to expect when he went to meet Cpl Peck. Sgt Soles found Peck to be in good spirits, as he was being spoon fed by an aide, while making jokes.
"He embodies everything the military is all about," Soles said.
Presentation of the Guinness World Record Medal and the Marine Corps Marathon Finisher’s Medal. Both medals were earned by Jeremy Soles for completing his run of the 2010 MCM while wearing a full gas mask. Jeremy then presented these same medals to Cpl John Peck. Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Soles with Team X-T.R.E.M.E..
When faced with the daunting challenge of running not only a marathon, but doing so with a gas mask in place, Soles kept driving on by remembering Cpl Peck. "Every time that I began to hurt," he said, "I tried to think about the individuals like Cpl Peck who wish that they could run again."
Soles then presented his Marine Corps Marathon Finisher’s medal to Peck along with the Guinness World Record Medal, which hangs on the wall in John’s hospital room.
Peck will be returning shortly to the East Coast to live, locating near Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There he will be able to make use of the facilities and equipment at the medical center while continuing his rehabilitation. He also will have access to various other resources available to our injured military members.
“If I was only missing one leg, I would definitely go back.”
Cpl Peck enjoying the pre-race festivities at the 2010 MCM. Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Soles with Team X-T.R.E.M.E..
So what does the future hold for a Marine who twice escaped death?
“John’s main goal in life was to be an Illinois State Trooper, drawing from the training and experience he would gain as a US Marine.
This wounded warrior will never have the opportunity to attend the State Police Academy in Springfield, to earn the title of Trooper, and to patrol our streets.
But he can return to a productive and meaningful life with our help and our prayers.”
He would like to begin a career in either architectural design or the culinary arts.
Dessert being served at a dinner held to honor (then) Cpl Peck. Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Soles with Team X-T.R.E.M.E..
His parents are planning on trying to relocate back to the Washington, D.C. area to be closer to John. That will depend upon employment possibilities.
“That’s the plan,” Zenio Krutyholowa said. “We’re trying to work something out.”
An account that had been set up to help with ongoing costs is still available should you wish to help.
Checks may be made out to: Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
825 College Blvd., Suite 102
Oceanside, CA 92057.
Please indicate the donation is in honor of John Peck.
For more information on Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and Sgt Soles follow this link to the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. website.