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Friday, July 18th, 2014

Brain-injured veteran walking to raise awareness stops in Celina

By Kathy Thompson

Former U.S. Army Specialist Eric Peters is taking a few days to rest and recoup. . .

CELINA - Eric Peters believes in "no slack," for himself or others.
Peters, 23, of New Jersey, began a cross-country walking journey a month ago from his home state to Sacramento, Calif., to bring awareness to veterans' issues.
"There are veterans who are homeless, out of jobs, who are on the brink of suicide," Peters said, as he took a much needed break at the North American Indian Cultural Center on Anthony Street in Celina Thursday afternoon. "I don't think the Veterans Administration is doing enough for them and I want people to know they need help."  
Peters served with the U.S. Army in the 101st Airborne and was seriously injured during an assault on a base in Afghanistan in March 2011. He now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. He received a Purple Heart for helping two of his fellow soldiers during a fire storm.
He is deaf in his right ear and suffers from ringing in his left. He has nightmares and anxiety and his left ankle, shoulder and knee cause him problems when he walks, he said.  Peters said he has applied to the VA for assistance with his injury, but his claim was denied. He has been without a job for several months since losing a construction job due to his brain injury, he said.
"When people find out I have TBI, they don't want to hire me. I get nervous around loud noises, don't like to be startled and have a hard time coping with some situations. So, that's when I decided enough was enough," Peters said. "I asked myself, what could I do? This is what I came up with."
Walking with a 100-pound backpack, Peters has found that his journey may take a little longer than he first anticipated. He is hoping to be in Sacramento within six months.
Peters plans to replenish his body and spirit by spending the next few days with St. Marys veteran Josh Henline and his family.
"But people are so kind," Peters said. "They let me stay with them, or let me use their bathroom for a shower or even let me wash my clothes. They've been great."
Peters' walk is being funded through donations, he said, but most of what he gets he gives away.
"I gave money, food and a taxi to a guy in Harrisburg. I gave money for food to a veteran in Akron and got a pizza and some food and gas for a veteran in Galion the other day," Peters said. "These guys served their country and need help. That's my mission. To tell the world that we served without question, without hesitation, but now need assistance."
Peters said due to the kindness of those following his journey or those that he just meets as he walks, he has only had to sleep outside three nights.
"A lot of people drive up to me, stop and give me some money, or make sure I have a place to stay and food," Peters said. "Once people become aware of the need, I think they're more inclined to help. But you have to get the message to them first."
Peters has created a Facebook page for those wishing to donate to his cause and currently has a little more than $5,000 in donations. His goal is to reach $100,000.
For every $100 donation, he pledges to do a "good deed for a person," for $200 he will do 50 pushups, take a video of it and post it online, for $300 he will give 100 "high fives" to people on his journey, for $400 he will give one hug to 100 soldiers he meets and for a donation of $5,000, he will donate that total amount to another veteran.
To donate to Peters, you can go to his Facebook page No Veteran Walks Alone.
Peters said he hopes that his walk will show other veterans "no matter how hard it's gotten, or how hurt you are, you can do something. I feel pain every day, but it's not something new. Since I was injured, I've been in pain."
Peters believes in "doing the right thing, even when no one is looking."
"You just have to keep going," Peters said. "It's all the way for me. Nothing less."
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