OCEAN CITY — Veterans, firefighters and supporters gathered at the Ocean City Music Pier Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 5, to build interest in the sixth annual Walk for the Wounded, planned for Sept. 27.
“We are hoping to take it to the next level,” said Ocean City Fire Department Capt. Steve Costantino. “We are out there raising awareness — awareness is key.”
The press conference included speakers from the Ocean City Fire Department, the VFW and two soldiers who have been helped by the Operation First Response program, for which the Walk for the Wounded raises money.
The three-mile walk takes place on the Ocean City Boardwalk, with the support of Ocean City Home Bank and the Ocean City Fire Department along with hundreds of community members.
Operation First Response helps those who served in the armed forces and their families with personal and financial needs. On Tuesday, Staff Sgt. Patrick Carney of Linwood said that he has received help from Operation First Response. He was medically discharged after eight years in the Army.
Carney served two deployments to Afghanistan, during which he was severely injured.
Carney, 30, deals with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, shoulder and knee injuries along with current memory loss and focusing problems.
For last year’s Walk for the Wounded, Carney was flown in from his base in Texas to walk in the event. Carney said that he was very humbled by the whole experience of walking at the side of people who supported him.
While Carney was receiving medical attention, neither he nor his wife were able to make their car payment, but Operation First Response paid it, he said. When Carney had operation on his knee Operation First Response was able to obtain a wheelchair for his recovery.
“I would hate to have a veteran like myself to not have help,” Carney said.
Specialist Miguel Rivera of Absecon was to speak after Carney about his experiences with Operation First Response, but could only form the words “thank you.”
Four months before his enlistment was up, Rivera, originally from Atlantic City, was in an accident that left him with a concussion, 14 stitches on his neck and back trauma that made it difficult to concentrate.
Members of the American Legion Post 430 in Galloway referred Rivera to Operation First Response after seeing a poster for Walk for the Wounded in a bank branch.
Since 2009, Walk for the Wounded has raised more than $250,000 for Operation First Response to assist wounded soldiers and their families.
“Let’s make Sept. 27 the biggest walk that Ocean City has ever seen,” Costantino said.
In the meantime, Playland’s Castaway Cove at 1020 Boardwalk will host a family day on Thursday, Aug. 7, to include unlimited rides, miniature golf, and go-carts for a $15 donation to Operation First Response.
For more information about the Walk for the Wounded, call Tricia Ciliberto at 609-399-0012 or see www.ochome.com.