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Hero Walk makes its way across Franklin County

June 19, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Laurie Orange and her daughter, Bailey Orange, of Chambersburg, Pa., take part in the 2010 PA Hero Walk Saturday along U.S. 30 from Caledonia State Park to Chambersburg. Money collected during the walk benefits injured service members returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer,

FAYETTEVILLE, PA. -- Former U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Caver was on a patrol in Baghdad five years ago when his squad was hit by an IED.

Caver, 31, said the explosion killed one of his best friends and left him with a traumatic brain injury. To make matters worse, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Caver, who was discharged from the military in 2008, said the Army refuses to cover the cost of his psychiatric treatment.

"I was denied when I shouldn't have been," Caver said. "It was a little disheartening. I lost a bunch of friends over there and I have a lot of friends who come back wounded ... For all of the sacrifices, I was given the short end of the stick."

Caver said he participated in the Pennsylvania Hero Walk as it made its way across Franklin County on Saturday to raise money for severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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About 30 veterans and civilians navigated their way through Caledonia State Park, then stopped at Taormina's Pizzeria in Fayetteville for a free lunch before heading west on U.S. 30 toward Chambersburg.

Event organizer Al Pulice said the group left Philadelphia on June 12 and intends to finish June 26 near Pittsburgh.

Some of the walkers went ahead of the main group to solicit donations from motorists at stoplights.

Pulice said money raised from the walk will be given to the Wounded Warriors Project, which was founded in 2003 to make life a little easier for the casualties of America's most recent wars.

"This is like a hero's welcome," Pulice said. "It shows the people of Pennsylvania care about their service members."

Master Sgt. Dave Corgoglione said he took two weeks of leave from the Army to participate in the walk. He said he will deploy with his unit to Afghanistan in January, leaving his wife and four young children behind.

"I walk because I know a lot of people who have deployed over the last few years," Corgoglione said. "I know about 20 people who have been wounded one way or another -- physically or mentally. I lost a couple of friends."

Corgoglione said he believes advances in medical treatment and battlefield evacuation techniques have decreased the number of combat deaths, but resulted in more survivors who need rehabilitative care.

"The Veterans Administration system is not designed to handle this many people," he said. "They're overwhelmed."

New York City-based actress JulieHera DeStefano said she was walking with the group because she wants to shoot a documentary about female veterans returning from the Middle East. She said the project is in the fundraising stage and will run on a Public Broadcasting Service station in Pittsburgh.

"I started to do the walk because I wanted to honor the female veterans who are serving," she said. "More women are serving now more than ever. I wanted to bring attention to that."

She said she felt honored to walk with the veterans.

"Their sacrifice to guarantee our safety is beyond belief," DeStefano said. "You want an example of what it is to be a real man? These are your guys."

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