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Chance Meeting Helps Persian Gulf War Veteran Walk Again

(credit: CBS) Pat Ciarrocchi
In addition to anchoring and reporting news for CBS 3, Pat Ciarro...
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By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The challenges facing wounded warriors can be great, even years after the conflict that left them with injuries.

CBS 3’s Pat Ciarrocchi has the story of one local man who has found a new life thanks to professionals who wouldn’t give up.

Tim Piper climbs out of his SUV with a confidence he hasn’t felt in years.

This Persian Gulf War Veteran calls it little steps, big leaps.

“After I lost my limb, I didn’t feel whole. I didn’t feel like a man. I didn’t feel like a father. I didn’t feel like a husband,” Piper said.

A training exercise in the Persian Gulf left his right leg mangled. Years later, an infection forced an amputation in 2006.

This Marine tried a prosthesis.

“I’d be bleeding within minutes of having the leg on and there was so much pain,” he said.

Then, fateful words – V.A. doctors said you’re not a candidate for a prosthesis.

“The doctors kept saying, this is going to be your life, crutches, wheelchairs,” Piper said.

Until September 29th, 2012 – a chance meeting at a golf outing for amputees with the team at Prosthetics Innovations, in Eddystone.

They told the V.A. you don’t have to pay if Tim can’t be fitted.

“The best part of our job, isn’t seeing a prosthesis that functions well. It’s seeing a guy like Tim, who can go to the bus stop and meet his kids standing on two legs,” Mike Rayer of Prosthetics Innovations said.

Within weeks Tim was fitted. And at the bus stop.

“None of my kids had ever seen me walk unassisted. He came running off the bus to greet me,” Piper said.

Tim fights bitterness because he lost precious time. And he tells other veterans there’s hope for them too.

“Even in your darkest hour… because you’re missing a limb, or two limbs or three limbs or you have a traumatic brain injury… there are groups, companies and organizations that will lift you up and carry you forward,” Piper said.

“Little steps, big leaps.”

Tim, the Marine Veteran says if it wasn’t for a chance encounter he’d still be sitting in a wheelchair.

For the team at Prosthetics Innovations the reward they say is helping people with amputations become the person they want to be.

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