A wounded warrior walked 205 miles in 11 days carrying a 50-pound rucksack to show his support for other wounded service members.
Retired Marine Cpl. Nick Perales, an amputee who recovered at Brooke Army Medical Center, walked from his home in Houston, to the Center for the Intrepid, arriving on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
In Feb. 2011, Perales, a scout sniper, lost his leg and suffered other injuries after stepping on an improvised explosive device while deployed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. After his injuries, he said he felt “helpless and hopeless.”
Perales credited the doctors, nurses and rehabilitation professionals at BAMC and the CFI for saving his life.
“There was a time in my life when I didn’t know if I could take another step forward,” he said tearfully. “I didn’t know if my life would continue on. It was because of the people here (BAMC) that gave me a different outlook on life. I’m so appreciative and grateful. They do so many amazing things. They give so many people hope and help.”
Perales spent years recovering from his injures, undergoing multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation to save his left leg.
“I wanted to show people that it doesn’t matter what your situation is or what your perceived limitations may be,” he explained. “You can always go a little bit farther. You can always go a little bit harder if you are willing to do it.”
After his injuries, Perales packed on some pounds and was out of shape. He decided he needed to make a change and turned his focus to fitness.
This was not the first time Perales pushed himself physically or mentally.
Over the years, he has participated in more than a dozen Spartan obstacle races through the New Mexico desert and even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with other veterans.
“For every season of my life, I always transition from one season to another with some kind of monumental journey,” the retired Marine said.
Two years ago, Perales started an online nutrition company. “It was a big change, so I was thinking about what I was going to do to start this next season in my life,” he said. “The thought that came instantly to my head was I want to walk from my home in Houston back to the CFI.”
Perales said the CFI was ultimately the place that changed the trajectory of his life.
“It made me want to go all in on helping other people,” he said. “It felt right coming back to the place that ultimately gave me that outlook and made me want to continue serving my country and my community. It just felt right.”
About a month prior to his trek, Perales reached out to John Fergason, chief of Prosthetics-Orthotics at the CFI, for assistance with his prosthetic leg.
Fergason worked with Perales to design a lighter weight leg and another support brace for his other leg.
“The leg he was using was pretty heavy,” Fergason explained. “I wanted to make a really lightweight responsive design for him.”
“Nick is the picture of resiliency,” Fergason added. “He is an inspiration to our team at CFI Prosthetics and we are proud to assist him to meet his goals.”
Perales said he was prepared to make the journey alone, walking 20 to 25 miles each day, but it turned out he had many people supporting him along the way -- some walking 20, 40 or even 50 miles with him.
“It was so meaningful, and it gives me a lot of gratitude,” Perales said.