“It’s a blessing to have something like the Semper Fi Fund”
“The human spirit is amazing,” says Army Staff Sergeant Wallace F, “I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve experienced it through veterans and citizens. There’s a huge drive within all of us – people can do anything.”
That amazing human spirit Wallace speaks of is also clearly evident in his own life.
Born in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, Wallace moved with his family to San Diego at the age of 6 when his father (a Navy man) got stationed there. About 5 years later, shortly after his father retired, Wallace (the youngest of 4 children) and his family moved to Temecula, California, where he was raised – and where he’s now raising his own daughter.
Growing up in Temecula, Wallace lived the life of a young Californian: riding bikes, playing outside all the time, Boy Scouts and – of course – surfing.
“Through high school, I wrestled and played football,” he recalls. “After I graduated, I moved to Alaska, worked there, and then joined the army at the age of 21.
Wallace was initially stationed in Hawaii, then deployed twice: first to Afghanistan in 2003 (“I was impressed by how beautiful it was”), then to Iraq in 2006. On September 8, 2007, while on that second deployment (and about two weeks before he was scheduled to return home), Wallace and his platoon were patrolling a village near Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad ... and his life took a hard turn.
“We flew out in Blackhawks, we landed and we made our way into the village,” Wallace recalls. “As I’m making my way across this field, I take a knee to rest a bit. Then I gotta move, so I get up – and all of a sudden I just feel a big blast. That was the IED going off beneath my leg.
“I just remember a lot of banging in my ears, I remember the steady ringing, it was like somebody knocked my lights out, but I wasn’t knocked out,” Wallace continued. “I remember falling to my back, it was an uncontrollable fall, and the next thing I know I can hear voices starting to echo, my eyes flutter, and as they’re fluttering, I’m trying to look around and I see my buddy at my feet and he has my rifle, and the barrel was pointed to the ground, all bent. I knew if the barrel looked like that, something was wrong with me.”
Something was indeed wrong: The blast ripped into his right side, resulting in his right leg being amputated above the knee and his right arm being amputated four inches below the elbow. Wallace is also missing two fingers on his left hand, has no feeling up to his left elbow and has permanent hearing loss.
Wallace spent 18 months in hospitals recovering from his injuries, and first learned about the Semper Fi Find when a friend – one of many other combat-wounded amputee veterans he spends time with – suggested that the Fund might be able to help with a small home renovation.
“He knows how much I love to lift and work out, and my garage was just full of crap everywhere, equipment, boxes,” Wallace recalled. “He said, ‘You should see if the Fund would help with setting you up with a shed or something.’ They ended up buying me a shed about a month later.
“They also helped me purchase a tractor, he continued. “I live on 2 acres of property. I do all the yard work on my own. It’s a lot for me to do, and I was constantly hurting myself, throwing my back out. The tractor helps out a lot: I still get that gratifying feeling like I’ve done something, but I don’t have to worry nearly as much about getting hurt doing it. So really, they’ve done more than they can possibly imagine, just by removing that chunk of stress out of my life.”
These days, Wallace is in school full-time studying business, and his wife of 13 years will be graduating in January with a nursing degree. He loves spending time with her and their 11-year-old daughter, and also finds the time for jiu jitsu 4-5 times a week along with weight training, swimming, snowboarding and training for marathons.
“Giving someone the opportunity to be a part of something, especially for service members, to be part of a family, a military family – that support channel is one of the biggest things that Semper Fi Fund offers to people. It pulls people together to forge new friendships in ways they wouldn’t expect – I think that’s one of the biggest things they do, because being alone sucks. It’s a blessing to have something like the Semper Fi Fund -- it’s a huge thing, and I’m really thankful for that.”