“Hillsboro has its bubble and it’s great—we’ve got this little Hillsboro bubble,” Richert said. “But it’s kind of crazy because where I was at had an even bigger bubble—better than what Hillsboro has—because you’re just around the same people with the same disabilities all the time.”
He also said that due to media publicity from around the state “everybody” knows who he is.
“If I’m in shorts, which 99 percent of the time I am, people know who I am so they all have to put in their two cents,” Richert said. “And it’s cool for a while, but sometimes it gets a little tiresome.
“It makes you kind of fatigued because you’re trying to get stuff done and you’re interrupted by a hundred different people that want to talk for an hour—which is no biggie, it’s just tiresome.”
Krista Richert, his wife, hasn’t experience the same transitional elements as her husband, but she said it has at times been an adjustment to move back.
“It’s a little bit more (of a transition) for me because I don’t know as many people,” she said. “So I’m still at home with (daughter) Lindsey most of the time, which is kind of nice, but I’m trying to get a job.
“Pete’s family has helped out a lot and my family came down for a weekend and helped me unpack, so it’s been good.”
Pete added that it’s been nice to move into their home on Birch Street.
“We finally get to live in a house that we’ve owned for two years,” he said.
Pete said he’s looking forward to completing renovations to the inside of the house, but the couple had more pressing issues to deal with when they arrived in town.
“When we first got here, we were having sewage problems because nothing has been running through it, so all these roots grew into the pipes,” he said. “But now I get to do the things I like to do. We’re going to remodel our kitchen here pretty soon. So it’s going to be fun.”
Richert plans to resume classes at Tabor College in February. He said he will pick up where he left off in his plan to earn a degree in physical education.
“I actually have a lot of my classes done for (physical education),” he said. “I just have my gen. eds and a few upper level classes to finish and then student teaching and I’m done.”
He plans to teach and coach on the high school level and eventually move to the college scene.
As for competing in cross country and track, Richert said he won’t be running competitively until next fall.
“I’ll probably run on my own (this spring) because I’m not in shape for (track) because it’s been icy and snowy,” he said. “But I think my first meet back will be the Tabor cross country meet (next fall).”
Life in Texas
For the Richerts, who were able to visit Hillsboro this summer during Pete’s leave, life in Texas was a mixture of fun and a lot of “sitting around.”
“Once I came off of convalescent leave in July/August, I didn’t do very much because I was coming to the end,” Pete said. “I’d already completed everything I needed to complete and I was just basically waiting on my running leg and having to battle with that. We had a lot of down time so I played a lot of golf.”
“A lot of golf,” Krista confirmed.
They also said that battling San Antonio traffic was a hassle.
“We lived five minutes off post and sometimes it would take me an hour and a half to get home,” Pete said.
Krista added that don’t leave home if you know it’s rush-hour.
To combat the traffic, Pete said, “I got a big truck and decided to discover side streets.”
Despite all the waiting, the Richerts agreed there were a lot of positives about their time in Texas.
“San Antonio is a huge tourist place, so they have Six Flags, Sea World, Riverwalk,” Krista said.
The Richerts also said they spent a weekend in Houston and attended an Astros baseball game, and did “a lot” of shopping in neighboring Austin.
While Pete’s amputated leg is a visual reminder of his injuries, he and Krista said Pete’s “coming off” medicinal narcotics was tough.
“It was like taking care of a drug addict,” Krista said. “He was very out of it most of the time.”
Pete said he was prescribed methadone rather than morphine during his recovery.
“I was on methadone, and that’s a heavier narcotic than anything else,” he said. “It’s what they use to take heroin addicts off of heroin. So, at nights I would be so cold and sweaty but yet I’d be burning up.
“I couldn’t stop moving,” he added. “So a lot of the nights I didn’t even go to bed. I’d just sit up all night and wait to start the next day.”
That process went on for nearly two weeks, he said.
“I tried not to use too much morphine and stuff like that when I was in the hospital,” he said.
“But there were some things they kind of forced me to take, like methadone, so I wouldn’t get too addicted to other stuff, so the hardest thing would be taking me off methadone—which is kind of crazy.
A long haul
Pete is officially done with rehabilitation and his retirement from the National Guard is set for Jan. 27. It was a long road back.
“With recovery and learning how to walk again, it was a long haul,” Pete said. “A lot of work.
“It was the most emotional time of my life, too. So especially running again, being able to get out of first gear and move into second gear, that was a very emotional day. I can’t wait until I get to put on a uniform and compete.”
Pete said his upcoming retirement will be emotional because he has been with the National Guard for nearly seven years. He enlisted when he was 17, two weeks before Sept. 11.
“I’ve been in ever since the first day pretty much I could be in,” he said.
“That was the career path—my main career path—that I chose so, it was a lot of fun. I would do it again. I lived the military life and I loved it.”
Pete will retire as a sergeant after his promotion from specialist this past weekend.
“I learned a lot about myself,” he said. “It really tested my faith, too, which was kind of needed at the time.
“When I was in Iraq, during that later part, I was struggling and it was almost like a wake-up call—showing me what I could actually live through when I really believe and everything.
“That night when the fire went out on the Humvee, we were on fire for 20, 30 seconds, I prayed to God. I said, ‘I’m going to be positive from here on out. You kept me alive through this for some reason and I’ll try to do what I can and learn from it. Help other people learn.”
Ready for normalcy
As Pete transitions back to Hillsboro and begins school and Krista begins a job, the couple said they are ready to return to a “normal” life.
“I’ve had a thousand things put in the papers,” Pete said.
Though the stories have been “nice,” he said, “I’m hoping to fade off here soon, get back to the normal life.”