Columnist Diana Kuyper
Updated: June 14, 2011 12:26AM
Marine Sgt. John Peck’s visit to Antioch on Monday impacted the entire community, as evidenced by the thousands of people who lined the streets to welcome him home, and the non-stop action at the VFW where people visited with John and lined up to donate blood throughout the day.
Antioch residents have always unselfishly answered the call to help others in need, but I don’t think I have ever seen the community come together like it has to benefit one of their own.
John Peck lost four limbs after he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan almost one year ago, on May 24, 2010. Although he had been injured and received a Purple Heart during his first tour of combat duty in Iraq, not many people knew who he was until that explosion in Afghanistan.
He was on the brink of death and in an effort to get his family to his side as quickly as possible, village officials, within 24 hours of his injuries, started a fund for him that as of last week topped $95,000.
His story has earned him widespread recognition through the Chicago area, but he thinks of himself as just a regular guy who just happened to lose his arms and legs while he was doing his job.
But for supporters who turned out to greet him Monday he is much more than a regular guy. “He’s a hero,” said Cathy White, a teacher from Allendale School in Lake Villa who came to support him as he was escorted down Antioch’s Main Street in a motorcade. “I brought some of my students because I wanted them to see a real hero.”
One of her students, Gabrielle Murphy, said she looked forward to showing her support. “He’s a good example of what people are willing to do for our country. No one should take what they have for granted when you see this kind of sacrifice made on your behalf.”
Allendale student DeJay Guess said John Peck’s example gives him courage to tackle whatever setbacks he suffers in his life. “That he can come back and move on with his life under these circumstances is awesome and inspiring to me.”
Homeschooled 15-year-old Sean Hayes was wearing his grandfather’s Navy cap while he and mom Barb cheered Sgt. Peck.
“This young man is an icon of morality and all that is good in this country,” said Barb, an intensive care nurse who followed reports of Peck’s recovery. “I didn’t think he’d make it. The fact he did and is here today makes me so proud of him and this country.”
Jeanne Kelly said her son, Anthony Pignato, came home safely from Iraq and she wanted to show her support for John’s amazing recovery. “He’s been through hell and back. I am so glad this hometown boy came back for a visit. It is something to celebrate.”
Diana Kuyper’s column appears Fridays. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.