Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Dateline: June 1, 2019
Written By: Mark Rhodes, SGT, USMC
Sgt John Peck returned to The Villages for, what I believe was, his second "tour". John recently wrote a book titled "Rebuilding Sergeant Peck" and was here for his book signing event. As a member of Col. Phillip C. DeLong Detachment 1267, Marine Corps League, I had suggested to Commandant Nathan Pratt, that we offer Sgt Peck an Honorary Membership to the detachment.
"On May 24, 2010, Peck was on patrol in a small village in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The Marines were entering compounds, meeting residents and looking for weapons or the Taliban. The last place they visited that Monday was a compound were nobody seemed to be home. He said the Marines had been warned: If no one's home, don't go in. But his commander was suspicious and decided to poke around. Peck, who was handling a metal detector, entered the compound first and swept the area for IEDs. "Everything was clear," he said. "I went to go tell my sergeant I was going to go outside," he said. "I went to go turn around, and that's when I took my step forward, and got flung through the air."
Peck had been in the Marines since 2005. He was the son of an Army nurse and grew up in Rockford, Illinois. He had served in Iraq in 2007, and said he suffered a traumatic brain injury in an explosion there that August. He was manning a machine gun atop an armored truck when the truck hit an IED. The blast threw him in the air, and when he came down he struck his head on the machine gun. He had suffered a concussion, and after further evaluation was sent home to his base in the United States. He underwent treatment, recovered, and reenlisted in April 2009.
A year later he was in Helmand. As the blast tossed him that day, he felt a blow to his head, which he thinks may have been from one of his amputated legs. He doesn't recall hearing or feeling anything. "My system was already in shock," he said. "There was no pain at all." He remembers screaming, "I don't want to die here!" (1)
The explosion took both of his legs and his left arm. Later, due to a severe infection, he lost his right arm as well. John was in a coma for three months. It took him over two years to recover.
On Veterans Day 2012, John was handed the keys and iPad to his new custom specially adapted smart home in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
In August of 2016, John underwent a bilateral arm transplant. Doctors say that with this transplant, John will eventually be able to feel, grasp, and hold on again. He is looking forward to pursuing his dreams of becoming a chef. (2)
Marie Bogdonoff, President of Villagers For Veterans, invited John up to the stage to introduce him to the gathered crowd. Commandant Pratt, then approached John, introduced himself, and explained that he had a surprise for Sgt. Peck.
Commandant Pratt presented Sgt. John Peck with an "Honorary Membership" to the Col. Phillip C. DeLong Detachment 1267 of the Marine Corps League. In addition to the "Honorary Membership" John was given a "Col. Phillip C. DeLong Challenge Coin", as well as an official red uniform cover, complete with Eagle Globe and Anchor.
I had a chance to briefly talk with John, he is just like the guys I served with. He is a Marine through and through. We are all just looking for that camaraderie, the bond of brothers. I found that John and I agree that attitude is key to any recovery. No reason to only look on the bad, when there is so much good happening.
Villagers for Veterans, along with The Col. Phillip C. Delong Detachment #1267 of the Marine Corps League hosted the event. Those in attendance were able to meet John Peck and enjoy desserts crafted by Navy veteran Kathryn Wilgus of Triple Threat Desserts.
John, if your reading this, welcome to the detachment, brother.
(1) Stars & Stripes
(2) Gary Sinise Foundation