Marine vet throws out first pitch after double arm transplant
This first pitch isn't about baseball. It's about a military hero regaining his sense of independence.
Militarykind

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. 

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

John Peck Fiirst Pitch
Marine Sgt. John Peck throws out the first pitch during Military Appreciation Night at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona prior to the Rockland Boulder's game against Trois-Rivieres Aigles on Saturday, June 30, 2018. Peck, a Marine who lost all four limbs to an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 is the first to have double-arm transplant.
John Meore/The Journal News

"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.

636651905991695246-Peck.jpg
John Peck following the double arm transplant he received in 2016.
Contributed

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."

'He's my hero'

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.

Military Appreciation Night
Marine veteran Barry Fixler talks about hosting retired Marine sergeant John Peck for this year's Military Appreciation Night on June 30 at Boulders' stadium, June 21, 2018 at his shop in Bardonia. Fixler started the Barry Fixler Foundation to assist severely wounded veterans like Marine sergeant John Peck, who was injured in Afghanistan and became a quadruple amputee.
Tania Savayan/The Journal News

"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."

No guarantees

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.

Military Appreciation Night
Marine veteran Barry Fixler holds a picture of retired Marine sergeant John Peck, who he will be hosting for this year's Military Appreciation Night on June 30 at Boulders' stadium, June 20, 2018 at his shop in Bardonia. Fixler started the Barry Fixler Foundation to assist severely wounded veterans like Marine sergeant John Peck, who was injured in Afghanistan and became a quadruple amputee.
Tania Savayan/The Journal News

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