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Marine vet delivers first pitch after double arm transplant  9 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

For about a minute before a Rockland Boulders game, baseball was more than a sport. 

It was a milestone for a wounded veteran and proof that the seemingly impossible is possible. 

John Peck, a former Marine who lost his arms and legs after he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, delivered the ceremonial first pitch. 

Sitting in his wheelchair, he used his arm transplants to get the ball across the plate and received a loud ovation from the fans.

"Thank you, Josh, for your service and God Bless America," the Rockland Boulders tweeted. 

Peck's first pitch was part of the Boulders' annual Military Appreciation Night, which also included a motorcycle procession presented by Hudson Valley Honor Flight, escorting Gold Star families to the field and honoring those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

In August 2016, after two years on a waiting list, Peck said he became the second wounded veteran to receive arm transplants, which replaced the prosthetic limbs he had relied upon.

The 13-hour surgery — some of it done under a microscope — was performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston by a team of surgeons from two hospitals, according to a published report. The family of the donor wished to remain anonymous.

He's continuing to receive physical therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near his home but has made substantial progress following a waiting period for his nerves to reintegrate. He's able to shower, dress, cook and drive, "things I thought I would never do."

Peck and his wife, Jessica, are coming to Rockland as part of the Boulders' Military Appreciation Night, and as guests of Barry Fixler, a Marine veteran known for his outreach to fellow service members. 

Fixler learned of Peck's journey through social media and has stayed in touch with him since before the transplant surgery.

"He's a war hero, he's my hero and I'd like to share him with 5,000 people," Fixler said during a recent conversation at his Bardonia jewelry store.

"He is a gift, a breath of fresh air, no complaints," Fixler said of Peck. "When I speak to him on the phone he's just another fella. ... he speaks soft, he speaks to the point. There's no animosity, there's no feeling sorry."

Fixler, whose foundation raises money for service members who were severely injured  in Iraq or Afghanistan, sees his involvement as a form of gratitude for their service and because he completed a two-year hitch in Vietnam "with not a scratch on me."

"When I was in the service my biggest fears that I had were losing limbs," he said. "There were booby traps all over ... It scarred me in a positive way. Being in combat you see wounded Marines lost their arms, lost their legs. I just kept in my brain and when I became a civilian later on I knew I had to give back."

Peck has more physical therapy ahead of him and knows there's no guaranteed outcome for his recovery.

 "It's like hey, we can try this and it might work," he said of the transplants he received.

He's lately been working on hand manipulation, tasks like grabbing a glass full of water, or taking the lid off a bottle.

A therapist told him he would only get 20 to 30 percent functionality from his new limbs.

"But functionality is matter of perspective," he said.

To stay updated on Peck's journey, check out his Facebook page and order a copy of his new book Rebuilding Sergeant Peck: How I Put Body and Soul Back Together After Afghanistan

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