Two Purple Heart recipients to join in Shamokin's 150th
SHAMOKIN - Mark Little got what some would call a grand tour of Shamokin last year when he visited Northumberland County for a wedding - he made it to most of the fire company watering holes.
On Saturday, the retired U.S. Army captain will march in the city's Grand Parade in recognition of its 150th anniversary. He will be joined by Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Earl Granville. Each are amputees and recipients of the Purple Heart, and are representing a newly established charity for military service members, veterans and their families - Warrior 360.
John Finnerty, a civilian employee of the Department of Defense will join them, too. Finnerty married the former Deidra Crone, whose family is from Shamokin. Little said a bunch of local guys got to talking and felt it would be a good idea to get Warrior 360 involved in the city's 150th.
"That's exactly what I want to do, go to Shamokin and hang out with real people," Little said before laughing. "I say 'real people' because I live near Washington, D.C."
Twice injured in Iraq
Little specialized in explosives in a sapper squad. He commanded more than 175 combat patrols during his only deployment in Iraq, and was hit by three improvised explosive devices and numerous ambushes, according to his bio on www.warrior360.org. He received his first Purple Heart after suffering injury from an IED blast. One month later in 2007, an IED explosion tore through his armored vehicle, resulting in the loss of both legs. He was awarded a second Purple Heart.
Ellen Degeneres featured Little on her daytime show earlier this year, when he said just a month after he received his prosthetic legs that he began snowboarding. He discussed his inspiration in creating Warrior 360, which went operational in November. Degeneres surprised him and his wife by arranging for the hosts of HGTV's "Cousins Undercover" to completely remodel their home, which was featured on a later episode.
Granville is a native of the Scranton area. He was in Afghanistan in 2008 on his third deployment when a roadside bomb exploded, costing him his left leg. He suffered another loss in 2010 when his twin brother, Joe, had committed suicide after leaving the service.
Granville has since become an advocate for suicide prevention and also runs, snowboards, plays sled hockey and competes in marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon. The organization Homes for Our Troops built the Purple Heart veteran a brand new home in Scott Township, Lackawanna County, which he moved into in December.
Little, Granville and Finnerty will have a stand at the parade. They'll sell T-shirts and badges, hand out literature and discuss Warrior 360 with anyone who cares to listen.
The charity has a dual focus: providing emergency financial assistance and getting wounded service members to become more active. Little used last year's government shutdown as an example. If a service member recently transitions to civilian life and loses their job, Warrior 360 wants to help them make mortgage payments.
As for getting injured veterans active, Little and Granville certainly lead by example.
"We're super honored to be invited up to participate. We're looking forward to engaging with everyone we can," Little said. "That's exactly what the Fourth of July is - reminding us of who we are as Americans and a reminder that the military makes it possible."
The three will be hosted at Penelope Murphy's Bed and Breakfast, Coal Township, compliments of David and Nancy Troxell, Rich Jilinski and Kathleen Shevitski, and Shamokin's Sons of Italy lodge.