Building Homes for Heroes®
Petty Officer Pete Herrick
Pete Herrick, a self-employed, highly-skilled carpenter, became a Naval Reservist in 2001, just six weeks prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. Herrick felt that joining the military as a Reservist would be a good way to supplement his income and would provide his wife and two children with additional financial security. He didn’t anticipate fighting America’s War on Terror.
In March of 2004, Petty Officer Herrick’s unit was mobilized at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. After a month of training in Mississippi, Herrick found himself in Kuwait, then Ramadi and finally Fallujah. Herrick’s unit, the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB), was assigned to convoy soldiers and materials between bases. On its very first mission, the unit fell under mortar attack, leaving five of the platoon dead and 33 wounded. Herrick was first taken to Baghdad and then he was flown to an intensive care unit at a military medical center in Landstuhl, Germany.
Once Herrick was stabilized, he returned to the United States, attached to a mechanical ventilator that allowed him to breathe, and arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. When he finally regained consciousness, his wife, Diana, was by his side. Herrick, a resident of Fort White, Florida, had multiple wounds to his right arm and leg; his left leg had to be amputated. One piece of shrapnel lodged in his lung, while another caught him in the neck, damaging his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
The next stop for Herrick was a spinal cord and brain injury facility in Tampa. A high percentage of those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered debilitating brain injuries, after being victimized by improvised explosive devices (IED) and land mines. These medical facilities have intense programs, which are specialized for soldiers like Herrick to ensure that they receive the type of care geared to getting them to the most independent level possible.
Herrick was released from the hospital on May 11, 2005, more than a year after he was wounded. The family has received help from many hands. They have a specially equipped van, their mobile home has been remodeled, doorways have been widened, a roll-in shower installed, and a portable lift has been brought in to get Herrick in and out of bed. Among the many steps forward Herrick has made is regaining the ability to breathe without a mechanical ventilator, which has given him his voice back. Herrick can wiggle his left thumb just a bit and operates his specially designed wheelchair (and an adaptive PlayStation) by blowing out puffs of air. He's learning to use a computer without the use of his hands.