Marine Sergeant Leon Pierce: Never Broken

For 13 years, Sergeant Leon Pierce faithfully served our country in the Marines. Though he suffered life-altering injuries while overseas — severe wounds that pushed him to his limits — Leon refused to give up hope and therefore, hardship never broke him.

Leon first joined the military because “it was something my mom and dad could be proud of me doing with my life,” he said. In 2003, he sustained critical injuries while serving as a rifleman in Iraq. While clearing a compound, his unit came under enemy fire and Leon was knocked unconscious by a massive blast. Though he miraculously survived the explosion, Leon faced another grave danger upon waking.

“When I regained consciousness, an enemy combatant was attacking me with a knife, but I was able to overcome the threat with help from my fellow Marines,” said Leon.

His wounds included a broken right arm and blindness in his right eye, which was partially corrected through surgery. But since Leon was right side dominant, his wounds created an incredibly difficult situation — he could no longer serve as a rifleman because of loss of vision in his right eye.

“I had only two options,” he said. “One, to accept a medical discharge or learn to shoot lefty. The USMC was all I knew and I loved it, so no matter how hard the process was, I was up for it. Learning to shoot lefty was not easy to say the least, but with help from a lot of great Marines, I was able to do it and make it back to being an Infantryman.”

Determined to never give up, he returned to the School of Infantry in 2006 and passed all the requirements to be a Mortarman, though because of his partial blindness, Leon was unable to deploy on combat missions … and being told no was one of the most difficult times of his life.

“Although I was strong, it started to break me down because I felt that I could help my brothers do what we do … I wasn’t ready to give up,” he said.

But in 2012, Leon’s dedication, courage, and hard work earned him the chance to serve overseas under the discretion of a battalion commander, who agreed that Leon’s talents and skills would be greatly appreciated in Afghanistan. While there, Leon survived the blast of a 35 pound IED, suffering a mild concussion, headaches, and scrapes and bruises. But during subsequent training, Leon ruptured his right patella tendon and received news that would lead to his medical retirement — both of his knees needed extensive surgery.

“From then on, it felt as if my world came crashing down again … I had to accept the fact that my day as an active Infantryman was all over,” he said.

But during his recovery, Leon encountered Semper Fi & America’s Fund — a life-changing occurrence to which he credits a renewed hope for the future. From providing Leon with gift cards to help with food costs, a laptop when he returned to school, and sending him on trips with other wounded veterans to surround Leon with a unique support system, The Fund ensured he had the financial and emotional support to live a life filled with new opportunities.

“One of the most important things The Fund has given me is letting me know that ‘I AM NEVER ALONE!!’” said Leon. “Every time I fall into that dark place, the thought of the people in The Fund that have helped and never gave up on me gives me the power to get past anything. The Fund is truly a big part of my life and family.”

Now, Leon is months away from earning his BA in business, and that is “all thanks to my family, and yes, when I say my family, I’m talking about The Fund, as well.” The Pierce family, including his wonderful wife, Niki, and their three amazing children, are also in the process of starting two family businesses—a food truck headed up by Niki, who is becoming a chef, and an online t-shirt business.

“I know that this might sound simple but it’s the truth —the best thing that Semper Fi & America’s Fund did in my life was become a part of it because they have helped us in so many ways,” he said. “I cannot even begin to tell you all of them.”

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