Wishes for Warriors
Although I was born in Houma, Louisiana, I grew up in Stafford, Texas. When I was a freshman in high school, I began thinking about joining the military. The Corps had a certain level of allure to me, more so, than all the other branches. It seemed the most “bad ass.” I was sitting in my sophomore history class when the Twin Towers fell. Like for many, that moment, that event, sealed the deal for me.
I joined the Marine Corps in 2004 and went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego. After graduation, I went to combat training in Camp Pendleton, California. Upon graduation, I went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for training in my MOS (1371-Combat Engineer). The first unit I went to was 8th Engineer Support Battalion. During my service with this unit, I climbed the ranks from Private First Class to Sergeant.
I deployed with 8th ESB two times to Iraq, February to September (2005 -Fallujah), and from March to October (2007 -AI Asad Air Base). On both of these deployments, we worked on general engineering projects that dealt with construction as well as road repair. We also ran security convoys for logistical movements and provided freedom of movement for personnel by sweeping for IEDs.
After these two deployments, I received orders to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 in Cherry Point, North Carolina. I deployed with MWSS 271 to Iraq from February to September, 2009 (AI Asad Air Base). We did general engineering on that deployment as well.
In the midst of all this, we retrograded millions of dollars worth of gear and lumber to Afghanistan. A couple of months into the deployment, we were tasked with doing Route Clearance. Route Clearance consisted of both mounted and dismounted sweeps for IEDs. This provided for freedom of movement for other units operating in the same area. I was the Route Clearance patrol leader for the rest of the deployment.
In 2011, I deployed once again with MWSS 271 to South America. We trained foreign military in Belize, Columbia, and Guatemala. After my time at MWSS 271, I received orders to join the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion in Camp Pendleton, California. Upon arriving in California, I was promoted to my current rank of Staff Sergeant (SSGT). I deployed twice with 1st CEB to Afghanistan (March to October, 2012 -Fob Payne) and then again to Camp Leatherneck (October to December 2013). On the first of these two deployments, we performed general engineering which consisted of building and tearing down forward operating bases as well as improving the security and survivability of the area bases in which we operated.
During the last of these two deployments, I was the platoon sergeant for a route clearance platoon. We provided freedom of movement for units in the area that we operated. We would clear the routes either mounted in vehicles or on foot.
As a member of the Marine Corps for over ten years, I have gone from the ranks of Private to Staff Sergeant. I have completed five combat deployments and one humanitarian. While on my second deployment with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division in Afghanistan, I was the platoon sergeant for a route clearance platoon. We were clearing routes for an element that was tearing down patrol bases. We came upon an IED belt where we found 11 IEDs, then we found one the hard way.
My truck was struck by a 250lb IED. It threw my MRAP in the air and flipped it over. I broke my back in two places, T12 and L4. It caused massive trauma to my spinal cord. My back is now fused together from T10 to iliac (middle of my shoulder blades to my hips). I also developed a condition called arachnoiditis, (an inflammation on the membrane that protects the spinal cord and the central nervous system). This condition causes excruciating nerve pain in my back and in both of my legs. Due to the trauma to my spinal cord and nerves, I cannot feel anything in my legs below my knees. I also developed a condition known as drop foot, meaning I cannot control either of my feet. Without prosthetic braces my feet fall down when I lift my legs up. I also broke my left elbow and arm. It had to be reconstructed and is now reinforced with a titanium plate and 10 screws. I broke my right patella and tore my right meniscus. I also have PTS(D "optional") and Traumatic Brain Injury. Because of the blast, I am now a partial paraplegic and I am wheelchair bound at all times.
But I have remained determined. Over the last two years, I have been doing physical therapy through the VA. More importantly I've been doing physical therapy at home. I'll prop myself up with a walker or forearm crutches to bear weight. That has brought me to the point where I can stand up using a cane to balance. The human body is an amazing machine that can somehow heal itself. It blows my mind that I can't feel anything below my waist but I can stand up.I am extremely lucky to have my beautiful wife Hillary and our two children at my side. I have no clue what I would do or where I would be at in my recovery without them. They have been my rock through this extremely difficult and trying time in all of our lives. My wife is an amazing caregiver and my kids are such great helpers when it comes to getting my wheelchair for me, getting my braces for my legs, helping me put my shoes on and keeping a clear path in the house, so I don’t run over their toys.I was also lucky enough to find an organization called Wishes for Warriors. When the thought of my injury finally sunk in, I thought there was no way in hell I would be able to hunt, fish or do anything outdoors again. I figured that I was just stuck in my chair and that was it. My wife was on Facebook one day and the wishes for Warriors organization came across her news feed. She's told me about it, and I got on their website and checked it out.
I contacted them to see if there was anything they could do to get me back out into the outdoors. My thought was that since its vets helping vets I can't go wrong with that. Vets have that mentality that you can make anything happen with very little. I told Bryan at Wishes for Warriors that I wanted to go to deer hunting, but I'm stuck in a wheelchair. He told me that it wasn’t a problem. He assured me that Wishes for Warriors could figure it out.
And they did! I harvested a deer on that trip and was hooked with the organization. Since then I've gone on trips with other vets and have been promoting Wishes for Warriors everywhere I go. I was really excited to find out that they aren't just a one trip organization. It's more of a family. I've met so many great vets through this organization, and I do what I can to give back. I care about vets because I know what it's like to be in their shoes. I have suffered through hard times, I have lost brothers in combat ,and I have battled my own demons and I know what it's like to live with PTS(D "optional"). I want to be able to help them in any way that I can. Wishes for Warriors made it possible for me to get back into the great outdoors!