The tragic events of 9/11 stirred a sense of duty in Michael F., and drove him to enlist in the Marine Corps, where he served seven years with three combat deployments: two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. On May 20, 2011, while on patrol in Afghanistan, Marine Sergeant Michael F. stepped on a pressure-plate improvised explosive device and suffered the loss of both his legs and most of the use of his right arm.

“We were 500 meters from our base when I stepped on it. My Marines did an amazing job of keeping me alive. I was -- and am -- so proud of them."

Michael spent the next several days in a coma in Landstuhl, Germany, before being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. His introduction to the Semper Fi & America's Fund came when he awoke at Walter Reed. Along with his parents, his Semper Fi & America’s Fund case manager quickly became a regular visitor, offering support to his family. Michael’s mother found comfort in attending The Fund’s caregiver events and retreats. Michael spent two years recovering at Walter Reed, with his mother -- and The Fund -- always at his side. During this time he met his future wife, a US Navy Hospital Corpsman working in the Intensive Care Unit. They were married in 2012.

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In August 2017, Michael and his growing family moved into a handicap-accessible house provided by the Gary Sinise Foundation. The Fund contributed toward the home and also helped with an extension on his back patio and driveway. The completed patio extension with wheelchair access now allows Michael to spend more time outside with his children. The Smart Home reduced Michael’s dependency on family members and friends and helped him regain his independence, allowing him to care for his children.

"It's working like a dream!” Michael said. It's given me independence and freedom knowing that I'm going to be okay, and I can take care of my kids on my own, so my wife can leave the house without worrying about us."

Throughout his physical therapy, Michael became skilled in handcycling. The Fund provided him with a handcycle and he began competing in races with Team Semper Fi (TSF). The extensive training and the connection provided by a team atmosphere, helped Michael to focus on his recovery. So far, Michael has completed 5 Marine Corps Marathons!

He has also trained in jiu jitsu and says it has the most positive impact on his mental state: "It was hard for a while. At first, I worried about how I would take care of my kids because I didn't have legs. I had no confidence in myself for the longest time. I'm finally proud to say, 'I am happy with my life.' Assistance from The Fund and training with jiu jitsu have given that back to me. Now, I'm a happy stay-at-home dad who practices jiu jitsu every day!"

The Fund has stood with Michael and cherished this relationship at every point throughout his journey, from the hospital through his recovery. All of this has been made possible thanks to The Fund’s generous donors.

"When I think of Semper Fi & America's Fund, I think of Independence and Hope. They give us the tools to make life easier so we can concentrate on our recovery and living our best lives. They provide connection to a community that inspires hope. Thanks to The Fund family, we know that we will never be alone.