“How was I going to support my family?” That’s what Peter Herrick was thinking when he woke up paralyzed after being unconscious for six days.
Luckily, Ramond Bruce, a national service officer with Paralyzed Veterans of America, arrived at Peter’s bedside and began to handle all the logistics that were worrying Peter. “I saw Peter when he was at his worst,” Ramond said. “He didn’t know if he was going to be able to live to see his daughter graduate from high school.”
Peter said Ramond educated him and his family on the process of obtaining benefits and alerted them to situations they could encounter, giving them guidance on how to address them. He obtained Peter’s power of attorney within the VA to help secure the benefits he was entitled to, made phone calls about their children’s educational benefits and introduced the family to people who would be helpful to them.
With Ramond’s help, Peter could stop worrying about future financial considerations and concentrate on his recovery. “Ramond stepped in and handled things for us; he was a friend to us and let me know that everything would be all right,” Peter recalls.
Peter ended up in the hospital on May 2, 2004 when his unit came under enemy attack. Enlisted in the Navy Reserve as a Seabee, he had two main duties as a member of the tactical movement team (TMT): Build schools and other structures for the citizens of Iraq, and protect his convoy while operating the 50-caliber gun.
On that day in May, a mortar shell hit their unit, killing five and wounding 33. Shrapnel pierced Peter’s body, and one large piece broke his neck; other pieces caused multiple abrasions on his arms and legs. His left leg had to be amputated above the knee, and his lungs were damaged. Ultimately, his severe injuries resulted in tetraplegia, which is paralysis from the neck down.
“You talk about fear—I got my taste of war,” Peter said.
Prior to his service, Peter had been living a “normal” life as a self-employed carpenter. Husband to Diana and father of two, he was an active member in his church. But, concerns about the future led him to look for financial security for his family and also honor his country. At the age of 34, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, Peter enlisted in the Navy Reserve as a Seabee.
“I have always had love for the military. I was fascinated by the Civil War, the terror and emotion the guys must feel,” he said.
Now it was Peter’s turn to get a firsthand look at that terror and emotion. After he was stabilized, Peter spent over a year in recovery back in the States. Help from the PVA national service officer allowed Peter and his family to adapt to their new reality without having to worry about benefits and security. Currently, Peter and his family live outside Lake City, Florida. He speaks around the state to veterans and their families, and using specially adapted equipment, he has begun to enjoy some of his favorite past-times like hunting and online investing