OCEAN CITY - Retired Army Sgt. Michael Hudson suffered multiple wounds in Iraq the day an incoming mortar shell hit a helicopter as he worked close by.
At 24, he found himself diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injuries, nerve damage in his right and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hudson, of Philadelphia, received the medical care he needed over time, but like many returning soldiers, his needs went beyond the physical.
That's where Operation First Response came into play.
The organization provided financial assistance and, more importantly, its members didn't see him as a number, Hudson said.
"The most helpful thing is they actually care," Hudson said. "They make you feel you're a member of their family."
He spoke on behalf of the organization Thursday as its supporters announced the fifth annual Walk for the Wounded, a fundraiser held on the Ocean City Boardwalk each year.
This year's event is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 28.
Ocean City Home Bank President and CEO Steven Brady, joined by local veterans groups and public safety officials, announced the annual walk and spoke about its purpose at a press conference outside the Sixth Street Fire Station.
Also joining him were basketball coaches Phil Martelli and Chris Ford, longtime supporters of Operation First Response.
"This is a great example of what I believe is the most powerful statement in the English language: thank you," said Martelli, the coach of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
Martelli said helping returning veterans was a simple way for Americans to say thank you.
"It's extraordinary the sacrifices that they make," Martelli said. "This is our small way of saying thank you."
The Walk for the Wounded is a 3-mile trek that leads participants from the city's Music Pier at Moorlyn Terrace on the Boardwalk down to 21st Street and then back to the Music Pier.
Since its inception, the walk has raised more than $200,000 for Operation First Response.
Bank officials said about 500 people participated last year, but Martelli urged more to make it this time around.
"And don't just bring one friend. Bring a whole neighborhood on Sept. 28," he said.
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