Marine Gunnery Sergeant Ralph DeQuebec – Bringing Home Gold
It’s the 2022 Paralympics during the sled hockey gold medal game. United States versus Canada. Six players on each team are fiercely competing for the title of world champions. This is the moment these men have been working toward for years, the moment they’ve dreamed about countless times. But for Ralph DeQuebec, a defenseman proudly representing Team USA, this is a moment he wasn’t sure would ever come, especially after he was critically injured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in 2012.
Ralph joined the Marines after 9/11, his desire to enlist fueled by the call he felt to serve our country. He deployed to Iraq in 2008, then to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2012, where he was severely wounded while disarming an improvised explosive device when it was accidently set off by an Afghan team member coming to meet him. His team member tripped, triggering an explosion that would ultimately result in above-the-knee amputations of both of Ralph’s legs.
Medevaced to safety, Ralph endured numerous surgeries and underwent excruciating physical therapy, and while recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he encountered Semper Fi & America’s Fund. Immediately, his family received extensive bedside support.
“They're like a family - once you're in, you're in. There are not many programs that I trust, and I trust Semper Fi & America’s Fund. I always recommend it,” he said. “The support they provide allows you to focus on what's important to you in life.”
As Ralph continued to heal, he discovered a new sport – sled hockey. What began as a means of rehabilitation soon turned into a passion with his biggest motivators throughout his recovery being “The friends I've lost. I've lost 18 of them -- 9 in one year. Those guys aren't here to achieve their dreams or live their lives with their families. I have a second opportunity and no excuse not to push myself,” he said.
Inspired by Ralph’s tenacity and grit, The Fund supported him throughout his journey to becoming a world-class athlete, providing grants for hockey equipment, opportunities to connect with other veterans at Team Semper Fi sports clinics, and travel assistance for Ralph’s mother to watch him win his first gold medal in the 2018 Paralympic Games. And in March 2022, Ralph achieved another amazing accomplishment when he and his team brought home gold from China, remaining the sled hockey world champions for two Paralympics in a row.
Now, Ralph is 100% independent, having met all of the goals that he set for himself just after he was first injured and still in the hospital. His future plans include continuing to play hockey and starting a nonprofit to pair at-risk youth with military mentors. An American hero from battlefield to the medal podium, Ralph continues to inspire others with his courage, determination, and passion, always proudly representing our nation across the globe.