It happened at dusk in Fallujah.
Corporal John Smith was on his second deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when his unit got the call that they were surrounded by the enemy. Moments later, a mortar shell tore through the building they were in, tragically taking the life of the fellow Marine standing next to John. Shrapnel hit John’s leg and his face, rupturing the lining of his eye. The impact knocked John unconscious before his body went into shock. His courageous teammates leapt into action, readying John to be medevaced while he fought for his life.
“The last thing I remember is that my Sergeant Major came over to me and said, ‘We got you from here, Devil Dog.’ And I passed out,” said John.
Critically wounded, John arrived in Germany for further treatment, his injuries so severe that the doctors told his mother and siblings that John most likely would not survive. John underwent a partial amputation and was kept in a medically induced coma for multiple months. It was during John’s hospitalization that Semper Fi & America’s Fund approached his mother to offer support, and immediately, The Fund began to help.
A heroic fighter, John refused to give up the battle, and upon waking, he spent a year and a half recovering in the hospital — the fact that he was not only alive but also thriving proved to be a miracle. Defying the odds, John healed faster than most thought possible and when he went home, he walked out of the hospital on his prosthetic leg with loved ones cheering him on.
“Immediate family and close friends all provided the love I needed to keep going,” said John. “I want them to think that anything is possible regardless of what is going on. They will not see me fail.”
Even throughout the long, arduous road to recovery, which included dealing with the effects of a traumatic brain injury, his amputation, and losing his eyesight, John never gave up. Self-reliant and driven, John often shares his incredible story to encourage those around him.
“I had to learn to let people know what was going on with me. If I didn’t tell them, no one knew the struggle … Even though the focal point is on me, it isn’t my story alone. At the end of it, I went through the injuries, but without my family, friends, the doctors who all cared for me, I probably wouldn’t have the spirit to keep fighting,” he said. “Medicine can only do so much. You still have to have the will to live.”
For John, having The Fund to depend on made all the difference on this journey to healing, as well.
“It’s like having an extra family,” said John. “It’s like a giant safety net…we [veterans] can try our hardest to see if we can do it, but you’re a giant safety net if we need help … If I didn’t have y’all in my corner, I don’t know what I would have done.”
For everyone at The Fund, John’s awe-inspiring journey highlights the immeasurable strength of love and family, proving that even throughout hardship, there is always hope.