Petty Officer Second Class Gerald Dugger Jr. (“Doc”) made the decision to join the Navy at a young age, fueled by a desire to help others and inspired by his father, mother, and stepfather, who all served our country. In 2007, he deployed to Iraq, where Doc provided immediate medical care to injured Marines in the field as a Fleet Marine Force Reconnaissance Corpsman.
“It was my job to be in the worst places to take care of our great men and women and get them back in the fight,” he said.
When Doc was injured, requiring his ankle to later be fused, his thoughts remained on taking care of others over seeking assistance for himself.
“Recovery didn’t start right away because I was in denial about my mental and physical injuries,” he said. “It was probably a year after I got out when I started seeking help for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and my right ankle.”
A friend encouraged Doc to reach out to Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and when he made the call, The Fund instantly offered assistance.
“I don’t know how to answer this question without crying,” Doc said when asked how being a part of The Fund family has impacted his life. “Carmen [his case manager] was assigned to me and immediately started to help. Even things I didn’t know I needed help with.”
From sending a sound machine to help Doc sleep better, providing a knee scooter after he underwent the three surgeries it took to fuse his ankle together, and helping ease the financial strain of paying the bills during Doc’s recovery, Carmen walked beside him and his family every step of the way. The Fund also helped Doc find tools to help manage his PTSD symptoms, ones that have proven invaluable as they’ve made life with his wife, Melissa, and their three children —Dylan, Blake, and Sabrina — full of hope. Although his ankle injury and recovery have drastically altered his life, Doc’s plans for his future and what he can accomplish are unwavering.
“Prior to my injury, I used to play a lot of sports,” he said. “Even though I can’t play those sports today, I have started to learn golf through Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and it is my new joy and passion at this time.”
When Carmen sent Doc an invitation to a Corpsman Reunion at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2019, this event forever changed his life.
“To see all the different service members with all the different disabilities not only thriving but achieving more than any of us could ever imagine gave me hope,” he said.
Because of his steadfast commitment to his recovery, Doc went from being unable to walk or drive to walking 4 to 7 miles per day, which has given him an even greater sense of independence and fulfillment.
For everyone at The Fund, Doc’s heroism as he risked his life on the battlefield and now lives each day with a sense of drive and purpose serves as an incredible example of the amazing feats one can accomplish by maintaining the hope of healing the broken.