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Wounded Warriors walk to pass through Ligonier

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 7:35 p.m.

The Byers Tosh Post 267 American Legion and Fort Ligonier Post 734 Veterans of Foreign Wars will once again welcome the Wounded Warrior Project's Hero Walk as it passes through Ligonier next week.

The 320-mile walk route from Philadelphia to New Kensington is conducted along Route 30. It benefits the Wounded Warrior Project, a national nonprofit organization that assists veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The project was initiated five years ago by Al Pulice as a one-time event to raise money and awareness for returning war veterans. That was more than 1,200 miles and $300,000 ago.

“We've pushed warriors in wheelchairs. There are a lot of people who walk with us who give these warriors emotional support,” Pulice said. “There's healing going on to some degree.”

Pulice of Murrysville began this year's 14-day trek on June 9. Only eight others are expected to join Pulice for the entire journey this year, but he hopes more than 10 times that number will accompany them for segments of the walk.

The Ligonier Valley community is invited to show support when the group passes through Ligonier. Local veterans will join the group in a parade at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The parade/hero walk will form at Bell Street and proceed down Main Street and end at Ligonier Agway.

“We want people to come out and bring awareness by coming out in masses,” said Pulice.

He said they call the segment walks Hometown Hero Walks.

A meal will be provided for the Wounded Warriors at Ligonier American Legion after the parade.

Pulice said the small groups participating in the long haul simplifies the logistics while large groups joining them along the way ensures they meet their goals.

A large crowd is expected for the final leg of the walk, from the Allegheny Township war memorial near Allegheny Towne Center to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 92 on Wildlife Lodge Road in Lower Burrell. This last 10-mile segment is expected to begin about 7:30 a.m. June 22 and finish about 11:30 a.m., followed by a picnic at the VFW.

Wounded Warrior Project funds programs that help veterans in a variety of ways, including combat stress recovery, physical rehabilitation, job training and assistance returning to a civilian lifestyle.

Pulice said they've been privileged to meet so many veterans, including those served by Wounded Warrior Project, during the walk's five years.

He said one of the more memorable moments was when an injured veteran joined them in Ligonier. Using crutches, it took the man over an hour to walk a mile.

“When he finally got to the American Legion, hundreds of people were waiting for him and giving him a standing ovation, clapping for him,” Pulice said. “It was amazing.

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Liz Hayes contributed to this story. Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or