Hero Walk to march into Valley again
Michael "Bish" Rieg is going to be one of about 14 people walking across Pennsylvania in support of wounded veterans this month.
The 320-mile, 13-day trek from Philadelphia to Lower Burrell begins on Sunday.
The day before, the Uniontown native will lead a few hundred people on an hour-long walk in his hometown of Landsdale, Montgomery County.
Lansdale isn't on the route of the Pennsylvania Hero Walk. Instead, it is one of three towns holding walks of their own for the first time this year in support of the fourth annual Hero Walk, which raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The nonprofit offers job training, provides training to soldiers' caregivers, and lobbies Congress to improve benefits for wounded service members. Helping veterans return to civilian life is its goal.
The walk will start on Sunday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and end June 23 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 92 in Lower Burrell.
Alle-Kiski Valley residents don't have to travel out east and walk back to take part or contribute.
They can join locally on June 22, when the walk will travel from the bridge in Apollo to the Casino Theater in Vandergrift from about 5 to 6 p.m.
There will be two legs to join on the walk's final day, June 23 -- about eight miles from the war memorial in Allegheny Township to the Rite Aid at Route 56 and Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and the final mile from the pharmacy to the VFW post, where the walk will conclude with a picnic.
Everyone is welcome, said event organizer Al Pulice of Murrysville. Walkers can park at the VFW, where a shuttle will start taking them to the pharmacy around 9 a.m., he said.
"We're hoping to get 500 to 700 to walk the last leg with us," Pulice said.
The walk raised about $70,000 last year, and Pulice said he's aiming for $100,000 this year.
Participants can help the cause by buying shirts for a $20 donation, and getting sponsors.
Four injured service members will be among the 14 making the entire cross-commonwealth trek.
"The thing that's really amazing is how it's created awareness of the Wounded Warrior Project," Pulice said. "More and more injured service members are going to them for help now that they know about it."
Pulice downplays his role in creating the walk.
"The idea wasn't the hard part. The idea was the easy part. It's amazing how there's so many people keeping it alive by participating," he said. "I'm pretty amazed by the patriotism in the Kiski Valley."
Rieg, a retired insurance claims adjustor, said he got involved in the walk after seeing Pulice on television. He's been among the few actively involved from outside the Alle-Kiski Valley.
A Vietnam era veteran, Rieg was drafted out of college in 1968, and served two years in the Army, all stateside. A "snafu" in his orders stopped him from going overseas.
That's part of his reason for taking part in the walk.
"It was a lucky break for me," he said. "It was dumb luck."
Rieg is hoping to raise $20,000 with his own walk on June 9 in Lansdale, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. He's expecting about 400 people to turn out for the hour-long walk on the borough's sidewalks.
"I think it will be a nice event," he said. "Maybe it will become an annual event for the town."
Brian Rittmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.