Triple Amputee Uses Music to Push Through ‘Dark Times’
Semper Fi Fund programs help warriors heal on their own terms.
Juan Dominguez is transcending limitations one instrument at a time.
The former Marine Cpl. always knew the military was part of his life’s plan because it was “a family tradition.” He enlisted a few years after high school and went to boot camp when he was 22.
“I wanted to join the military in general since I was a young kid. My father was a Vietnam vet, my grandfather was in the military, my uncles and most of my friends—because I come from a small town, so that was always something I wanted to do,” he explained.
A life-changing moment
Three years into his contract, Dominguez, who was an infantryman, was injured from an IED explosion in Afghanistan, losing his two legs and right arm. He was transported from a hospital in Germany to Bethesda, then completed outpatient treatment at Walter Reed. His mom served as his caregiver and knew exactly what he needed to get through the healing process.
“Music has always been an audible memory book for me. I always can hear a song and be like ‘oh, I was in high school when I heard this’ or it’s just something I love to talk about a ridiculous amount, so when I got injured my mom knew how important that was to me, during really dark times and through surgeries, she had them playing my favorite music. My mom understood that … if anything was going to heal me it was music.”
His mom also found her own source of strength from the Semper Fi Fund – a nonprofit organization providing immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for wounded, critically ill and injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. The group has kept a relationship with the Dominguez family ever since, including an overseas trip that was symbolic for the triple amputee’s declaration of independence.
“I first was aware of Semper Fi Fund when I was in the hospital because they were good support for my mom,” Dominguez said. “They stayed connected ever since, even if it’s just checking in with me. They even took me and my wife to Germany to go see the hospital where my life was saved. I was able to get out of a Blackhawk on my own terms, jumped in my wheelchair and rolled off instead of being carried off.”
Getting back to his roots
Dominguez has refused to allow his injuries to prevent him from living his life, which is at the heart of what Semper Fi Fund does: help warriors live wholly.
“I started playing music when I was 12, started with the trumpet and then I moved to the guitar, taught myself the guitar at 15, so I know how to read and write music,” he said. “Then I got injured—lost my arm, both my legs—taught myself drums and piano, and then I started playing everything again after my wife basically just told me, ‘I think you can still play guitar one-handed’. It means everything that I am able to continue doing all that.”
Dominguez is now a full-time drummer in a band, called The Resilient, who came together after he played with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.
“I am the first severely wounded military person Roger ever met, he put together an entire band and we (The Resilient) are a spinoff of that,” he said. “I’m actually co-producing an album right now and so music is my forte."
Crushing life’s walls
In 2013, Juan Dominguez married his wife Alexis and the Temecula-based couple are working on their artistic careers that ironically have a lot of intersections.
Dominguez says he hopes to one day put out his own album, but he also focuses on living life in the present.
“I don’t really look that much into the future because just like that your life can change so much, so I think it’s more like I do have goals obviously because I’m the type of person that needs to see something in the future to be able to crush walls and obstacles in my way, but I feel like I just try to do what makes me happy for the day,” he said.
And Dominguez works with other veterans to guide them through their own peaks and valleys.
“What I started saying to them (veteran friends), was talking to them with more of a warrior outlook: Look, out there in the battlefield you have support. Even in Infantry, you lean on supply because you have to have your beans and your bullets. You can’t fight without food, you can’t fight without ammo or intelligence or air support. So why wouldn’t you in this scenario take your military training and do the same thing. You don’t have to go through it alone,” he said.
Semper Fi Fund offers a mix of tools to help military members and veterans get that exact support in whatever way they prefer to receive it, whether that be in-person through a program like the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program or virtually with multimedia resources.
Dominguez urges fellow warriors to use everything in their arsenal to heal.
“Life is so short and unpredictable. I try to do whatever I want, even if it isn’t society normal as long as I’m not hurting anybody, I’m paying my bills, and I’m not a burden to anyone. I feel like you should do what you want, laugh a lot, you know?” he added.
The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation recently announced a match campaign to support Semper Fi Fund’s efforts in lifting up military members, like Juan Dominguez. Now through Dec. 31, 2018, the foundation will match all donations – up to a total of $10 million – through the Double Down for Veterans campaign.
“The successful transition for injured veterans back into civilian life is significantly enhanced by a supportive and loving family,” Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran Bob Parsons said in a press release. “The comprehensive programs provided by the Semper Fi Fund acknowledge this by providing much needed help not only for the injured veterans but also for their spouses, caregivers and kids.”
Donations can be made online at the Double Down for Veterans.