First Class Kevin:
"Life is short, things can change very quickly."
Sergeant First Class Kevin:
"Life is short, things can change very quickly."
Growing up in the Oklahoma Panhandle with deep roots in the energy industry, Kevin saw a future that presented him with very specific options. “It was pretty much be a mechanic, work in the oil field or go to college,” he says.
Kevin saw those three options and chose a fourth: In June 1997, the summer before his senior year of high school, he enlisted in the Army. Two uncles, a cousin and both grandfathers had served before him, so he was continuing something of a family tradition.
Three combat tours in Iraq followed. His first deployment was March 2003 through March 2004 (“I was a tank gunner”), his second was December 2005 through December 2006 as a tank commander and section sergeant (“I was there for the surge”) and his third was from July 2011 until May 2012 as a platoon sergeant (“we were convoy security”).
"I’m not bulletproof… Life is short, things can change very quickly."
Growing up in the Oklahoma Panhandle with deep roots in the energy industry, Kevin saw a future that presented him with very specific options. “It was pretty much be a mechanic, work in the oil field, or go to college,” he says.
Kevin, however, found his own fourth option. In June 1997, the summer before his senior year of high school, he enlisted in the Army. Two uncles, a cousin, and both grandfathers had served before him, so he was continuing something of a family tradition.
Three combat tours in Iraq followed. Kevin’s first year long deployment was March 2003 as a tank gunner, his second was December 2005 as a tank commander and section sergeant, and his third was July 2011 as a platoon sergeant as a part of convoy security.
As his third deployment was winding down, Kevin was sent stateside, to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He got accepted to serve with the WTB and started helping soldiers like himself make the transition from battlefield to stateside.
Life was good. While he was unable to return to the tanks where he spent three deployments, he was doing rewarding work helping others. After a while, he fell in love and was married in March 2015 to Brittany.
About a week and a half after the wedding, Kevin’s back started hurting while he was running errands. “I got to the point where I felt like I was having a kidney stone,” he recalls. “I’ve had those before, and the pain was very similar.”
Kevin texted his wife and brought himself to the emergency room. “The last thing I remember is giving a urine sample; it was black, it looked like coffee.” The next thing he remembers is waking up to a nurse giving him a sponge bath — he had been in a coma for three weeks after going into septic shock as the result of contracting necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria.
“I was in the intensive care unit for about two months, I lost about 45 pounds,” he continues. “My heart had actually stopped three different times, my lung function dropped to 10% and my kidneys shut down. They didn’t think I’d walk again for at least six months.” After 83 days, Kevin walked out of the hospital on his own.
Throughout Kevin’s medical stays, the Semper Fi Fund & America’s Fund was there to help him and his family.
“I went from having surgery every day to every other day to twice a week to once a week for a while,” he says. “My wife had to quit her job, she had to be at the hospital, take kids back and forth to school, she was doing a lot of running around. Just in gas cards alone, they helped out a lot. They’ve done so much for us, I really can’t repay them for it.”
In addition to assistance provided to Kevin and his wife through our Service Member and Family Support Program, we also provided Kevin with a therapeutic mattress that made it easier for him to sleep.
“I have no muscle in my left core, they had to cut everything out,” he explained. “Basically, I have half a back. From the top of my buttocks to my shoulder blade, from the spine to the belly button, it’s all been removed. I’m literally laying on my rib cage, so I sleep differently than I did before. Plus, some mattresses trap heat, and when you have injuries like this, it’s hard to regulate body temperature.”
Kevin continues to undergo surgeries but remains optimistic and clear about his priorities.
“After so many deployments and coming home every time, it has definitely taught me I’m not bulletproof,” he says of the whole experience. “It’s very humbling. It’s shown me things that are important in life. As a soldier, you take things for granted because you’re a soldier first — but that’s not how it is now. I’m a dad and a husband first. It’s very humbling. Life is short, things can change very quickly.”
This story was originally posted March 2018
Semper Fi Fund's veteran support programs are designed to provide the very best care and support at the time of injury or illness -- if necessary, for a lifetime. We also have programs to provide assistance for Vietnam veterans. If you support our mission and would like to get involved with the Fund (one of the nation's top-rated veteran charities) we'd love to have you.