“The Fund, to me, is about Americans remembering those that fought and lost a great deal to protect them. It’s about amazing people keeping a promise, forgotten by many, to care for the ones who stood up and said, ‘Send me. I’ll go.’ It’s people dusting you off and saying, ‘You’re not alone. We got you.’ … They never let me feel forgotten.”
In 2007, Explosive Ordnance Technician Mary Dague was serving on deployment in Iraq alongside a courageous team, who had successfully disarmed dangerous weapons on over 300 missions. When the call came that an improvised explosive device had been found and was now in need of neutralizing, Mary’s team leader took charge of this task with Mary serving alongside him. Boldy and bravely, they began to disarm the device. Surrounded by enemy forces in hostile territory, they were forced to move quickly.
But when the device began to fall over, Mary, concerned only about protecting her team and nearby civilians, covered it with her own body. Instantly, it detonated, critically injuring Mary in the explosion. This heroic act resulted in the loss of both of her arms; hearing, facial, and eye damage; and permanent scarring over her body. Throughout it all, what inspired Mary’s fight to live was knowing her beloved, faithful unit was safe.
In 2013, after years of enduring surgeries and rehabilitation, Mary learned she was being called to fight another battle: breast cancer.
“About a week after my husband got back from his 2nd deployment, I went in for a routine appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor found a lump in my left breast. After tests, it came back as breast cancer,” said Mary. “I was incredibly lucky as the doctor had found it within a couple weeks of growth. Though because of where it was, I ended up having to have a full mastectomy and reconstruction. Alongside 6 months of chemo followed by 5 years of hormone therapy, my amazing team was able to eliminate my cancer.”
Determined to deliver all-encompassing care for Mary, The Fund provided numerous family support grants and funding for home modifications to ensure she had everything needed to fully focus on her recovery journey as a double amputee and throughout her cancer treatments. Now, she is currently in remission, having added cancer survivor to her life story, and eternally thankful for the endless support of those who surround her.
“There was an army of people behind me during that time. My doctors, nurses, case manager, husband, his unit and assignment officer, family & friends, and agencies including Semper Fi Fund & America’s Fund. I couldn’t have gotten through it without them, and I am forever grateful.”