THE INJURED MARINE SEMPER FI FUND
MASTER SERGEANT CEDRIC K., USA
“I had a bad day at work,” Cedric says, recalling July 25, 2012—the day he stepped on an IED. “My bad day at work just happened to be a day that changed my life. Someone has a bad day at work, they lose their job; I kept my job, but I lost my legs.”
A North Carolina native, Cedric describes his upbringing as being that of “a regular American kid.” Not wanting his mother to take out school loans for college, and in the absence of being recruited by any colleges for playing basketball, Cedric enlisted in the Army in July 1995, just a few weeks after completing high school.
Cedric deployed to Iraq in 2003 and to Afghanistan twice, in 2011 and 2012. It was during that third deployment that he had his “bad day at work.”
“I wake up knowing that I have to go on patrol that morning,” Cedric recalls. “The patrol is only supposed to last a little while; it should have been an hour or two tops. We departed the outpost with about 20 guys, and we started taking fire. Everybody gets down and starts returning fire and the first group of guys gets to a building and takes cover.”
“I go back to get the second group of guys,” Cedric continued, “and that's when I step on the IED. I don't know what I stepped on, I don't know if it's a bomb, a rocket, or what. I go up in the air, I land, I see blood everywhere.”
Cedric lost both his legs as the result of the explosion. His right leg is amputated above the knee and his left leg is amputated below the knee. He credits America’s Fund as being an organization that was fundamental in helping him on the road to recovery.
“America's Fund was always in the hospital,” Cedric says. “About a week after getting blown up, I woke up in Bethesda and there were the America’s Fund ladies, always there with the red shirts and the red hats. They weren't one of the organizations where you saw them once and never saw them again.”
“My mom and my stepfather, they needed to come up here to Walter Reed, they wanted to see me and be there for me. My mom runs a Bible book store back in their home town—they make their living having their store open. Visiting me, they close their store and have no income. America’s Fund gave them a grant to supplement their income—they made it possible to keep the family functioning so my mom could be with me.”
“America’s Fund,” Cedric continued, “they get it, they really do get it. They understand giving back from an emotional standpoint, from a community standpoint—the community of wounded warriors.”
Today, Cedric loves spending time with his wife of over 14 years and his two daughters, ages 10 and 6. A remarkable athlete, he is active on Team America’s Fund, enjoys handcycling, and completed the 2014 Boston Marathon. He looks forward to many things—competing in Ironman Raleigh, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, even running cross-country “from one ocean to the other ocean” to raise money for the causes he supports.
“You can do anything you want to do,” Cedric says with absolute conviction. “The reason we don’t is we put our abilities in a box, we put on parameters, and we say this is as far as we can go. The opposite of that is we do whatever we want to do. We can go as far as our imaginations can go. Maybe it took me losing my legs to figure that out.”
One of many places Cedric’s imagination is taking him is toward a career in motivational speaking.
“It all started when I was speaking at a wedding about four months after I was injured,” Cedric explains. “My wife took a video of it, and people were crying. But you know, to get guys to do things in combat they wouldn't normally do, that takes motivation. People started telling me I should do motivational speaking.”
“In 2012, the Carolina Panthers were playing the Redskins in DC, and the coach has me come over and meet the guys,” Cedric continued. “ ‘Maybe you can pep up the guys, help us win the game,’ he says. So I'm talking to these guys, and they go out and win the game.” [Editor’s note: The Panthers went into the game with a 1-8 record and won by a score of 21 to 13.] “The coach is like, ‘Dude, I don't know what you said to these guys!’ He sends me the game ball, and ever since then we stayed in contact. At the beginning of the 2013 season, they had me talk to the team, they went 12-4. Coach says, ‘Wow! You should be doing this on a full-time basis!’
“All you're responsible for in life is to do what's within your ability,” Cedric says, “If your ability is to walk one step per day, then you do that, and if you do that one thing, then more will be provided—that’s how the impossible is grown from the impossible. It takes time, sure—you plant a seed, you can't have a tree in one day. But do what's possible long enough, the impossible will happen."
STAFF SERGEANT COURTNEY P., USMC (RET.)
Staff Sergeant Courtney "Corey" Petersen (Ret.) was injured in 2007, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. During her month-long stay in intensive care, The Semper Fi Fund assisted Corey's husband to ensure that he had the resources needed to care for his wife.
"Sometimes you can do everything right, plan, take safety precautions, and accidents will still happen. I am an example of this as I wasn't drinking, wasn't doing anything excess, and had brand new safety equipment.
In February 2007, while on a weekend trip up to Wisconsin with another Marine couple, I fell off my snowmobile and was ran over by the Marine behind me. His snowmobile shattered my T5 vertebrae, collapsed both my lungs, broke six ribs, and required a tracheotomy. I survived the hour-long wait for an ambulance due to the first aide knowledge that the Marine Corps provided to my active-duty Marine husband and our friend. After a month of intensive care, I woke up to find out that I would be paralyzed from the armpits down...The Semper Fi Fund contacted my husband and asked how could they help."
The Semper Fi Fund provided grants for household needs, such as ramps, and later offered a grant for Corey's dogs, Teddy and Tinkers, to be trained as therapy dogs. Corey now pays it forward by visiting newly injured patients at the hospital with Teddy and Tinkers. During these visits, Corey has the opportunity to share her own story and inspire fellow service members to live fulfilling lives despite the daily challenges that accompany severe injuries.
Corey is an active member of Team Semper Fi, the Semper Fi Fund's "Recovery Through Sport" program. She has participated in numerous events, breaking her own records year after year and earning recognition for her accomplishments. Team Semper Fi has been a great avenue for recovery and camaraderie with fellow injured service men and women.
"I have now participated in more sports disabled than I ever did able-bodied. I've been skiing, biking, rock climbing, boating, and surfing. Yes, a female Staff Sergeant from Iowa who is paralyzed from the chest down has been surfing! All due to the Semper Fi Fund. I owe them my life beyond the medical aided needs. They've made my life exciting to live." Corey Peterson
Corey was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2011.
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