Marine Sergeant John Peck lost his arms and legs six years ago while on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
On May 24, 2010, Peck was on patrol in Helmand province, searching homes in a village for weapons. After stepping on an IED, John was thrown through the air – with his own leg kicking him on the back of the head as he went down.
After two months of sedation, John’s mother was given the horrific task of telling her son, then 25, just how much he had lost.
“My mom told me as calmly as she could that it was bad,” Peck told People. “At first, I was very pissed off at the world. I felt alone and I didn’t see much hope there. I’d pretty much decided to end it all.”
As he recovered in Walter Reed Military Medical Centre, John decided he would throw himself down a flight of stairs and kill himself.
But, as luck would have it, John looked out the window. Outside he saw a double amputee holding the hand of his young daughter and hugging his wife.
“I thought ‘If that guy can find happiness and somebody to spend his life with, then so can I.’”
John signed up for physical and psychological rehabilitation, he joined match.com, and did everything he could to make himself a future.
In August of this year, he underwent a double arm transplant – becoming one of one two US war veterans to do so, and one of only 80 people worldwide.
His reasoning? So he can hold the hand of his fiancé, Jessica Parker, who he met on Match.com.
John says he will now wait a year for the nerves in his arms to become fully functional, and then he will walk down the aisle on his prosthetic legs, and take the hand of his beloved.
Jessica, an art restoration student, describes how she saw John’s profile and was taken aback by his sense of humour.
“He seemed so honest and open — I was really intrigued,” Parker said. “His profile contained a lot of puns — stuff like, ‘I’m a blast to be around.’ He made me laugh, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Initially, John said he felt like the message must be a hoax, as he didn’t see why a beautiful woman would be messaging him. But after meeting up, there was an “instant attraction” between the pair.
Just a few months later, the couple moved in together, and after John’s landmark surgery in August, he asked Jessica to be his wife.
Proposing at the aquarium, in front of the penguin encounter, John recalled a conversation they'd had about penguins - when Jessica told him that Emperor Penguins mate for life, with the male giving the female a smooth pebble to seal the deal. What did he hand her? A pebble with a diamond ring on it.
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