If Doug Vitale had been in a different spot during his patrol, or if the weight of his pack had not been as much, maybe Wednesday night’s Match for a Marine at Peters Township High School would not be needed.
But Vitale, a corporal in the Marines and in his first tour of Afghanistan, was in that spot in patrol line, and the weight of his pack probably set off the improvised explosive device buried under him. The blast blew off Vitale’s legs and caused severe head trauma. A loss of blood triggered a series of strokes. Only through the quick actions of his fellow soldiers was he transported to a military hospital, where doctors saved his life.
“He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Denise Pisciuneri-Abraham, Vitale’s mother-in-law. “The IEDs are designed to disfigure you.”
For more than a year, Vitale has been in a Veteran’s administration rehabilitation hospital in Tampa. During that time, his friends, family and supporters have been hard at work rasing money so that Doug and his wife, Alexis, can have a handicapped-accessible home in Western Pennsylvania.
Money has been raised through other events, but the latest will be at Peters Township High School, where all proceeds of the wrestling match against Upper St. Clair will be donated to the Vitales.
“Since he married a girl from Peters Township, it just made sense to do this,” said Mike Buckiso, a member of the Peters Township Wrestling Boosters and owner of The Fireplace and Patioplace. “I did an event that helped someone in Cranberry, where we remodoled his house. After that event, I came home and saw an article in the paper about Doug Vitale and a walk they were having for him. I thought we should do something for him.”
That “Hero Walk” on Arrowhead Trail in September, organized by VFW Post 764 in McMurray, raised about $50,000 and was attended by 500 people. It is hoped Wednesday’s event can attract 1,000 people and raise another $5,000 more for the Doug Vitale Fund.
“This is what we’re here for,” said Scott Huenefeld, first commander of VFW Post 764. “We’re going to do what we can for him.”
The Peters Township Dance Team, Peters Township School Board, VFW Post 764 and the Pittsburgh Leather Neck Detachment will participate in the ceremonies, which begin at 7 p.m. Pisciuneri-Abraham’s daughter, Samantha, a 16-year-old student at Peters Township, will sing the national anthem.
When a site is selected, two other organizations – the Tunnel To Towers Foundation and The Gary Sinese Foundation – will help with the construction of the house.
Vitale wrestled for Kiski before heading to Slippery Rock, where met his wife. The two were married in May of 2010 after Vitale left Slippery Rock to enlist in the Marines.
Donations can be made to VFW Post 764 Relief Fund, 460 Valley Road, McMurray, Pa., 15317.