Sergeant
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.

Kevin: “It was pretty much be a mechanic, work in the oil field or go to college.”

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”).

Sergeant First Class Kevin in a military tank

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 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 met and fell in love with his now wife and they married in March 2015.

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 ICU 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 nightmare, Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund were there to help him and his family.  

Kevin: “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.”

 One of the ways America’s Fund has helped is by providing Kevin with a therapeutic mattress that makes 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 bullet proof,” 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.”