Stefan: Recovery through Growth

For Army Sergeant Stefan who lost both his legs —one above the knee and one below—to an IED in 2012, turning to physical activity and “Recovery Through Sport” to help with the stress of recovery was his relief from it all.

“I could focus on being physically active, focus on succeeding at something even though my recovery had stalled. I could focus on succeeding at hand cycling. For me physical activity makes my life so much better, so much easier. It takes away the pain and the mental struggles. I can relax and be calm with physical activity,” Stefan stated.

“When I was struggling to go through my recovery, I really looked up to those other amputees, those other veterans who were pushing themselves to succeed. Now that I’ve had a lot of personal growth and success, I definitely want to help other veterans. I want to mentor those other veterans and help them grow as well.”

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For Stefan, the Semper Fi Fund’s Team Semper Fi has become a giant family. “Everyone wants everyone else to succeed,” he said. “They see that someone is struggling through their own disabilities, their own injuries, and they want that person to succeed. I recently ran a 5K with a double amputee—double above the knee amputee— it was his first one, and it was something I really wanted to do with him, because I wanted to give back by encouraging him to push himself to run. Maybe not a marathon right away, but that he could go on a run.”

After his first half marathon, Stefan wanted to take off his leg and throw it away. Now he is the one inspiring other disabled veterans and amputees. “It’s a great thing to be coaching people and be able to say to them `You can do this, too. It might be your first one. It might be horrible. You might want to take your leg and throw it away, too, but you can do it!’ I think it’s so amazing to be at that point. Now I can encourage disabled veterans to push themselves and tell them that they can do it.”

“There are times after a race or even during a race that I want to quit, but I take a lot of pride in hearing other people say—other veterans saying— that they’re inspired by me or actions of people like me.”

Just as our service members rely on each other for support and strength while on active duty, Stefan says he finds that strength from all the people around him who want to see him succeed. Semper Fi Fund is honored to provide programs that help service members find hope and post-traumatic growth.