Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for May 16, 2011 - Capt. Juan Guerrero

Captain Juan Guerrero

Current Unit: Fort Sam Houston Warrior Transition Battalion
Current Position: Warrior in Transition / Continuing on Active Duty (COAD) Soldier
Component: Active Army
Current Location: San Antonio, Texas
Hometown: Hialeah, Fla., and Eagle River, Alaska
Years of Service: 17

After competing at the inaugural Warrior Games last year, Capt. Juan Guerrero took home the gold medal in the 10-meter air rifle shooting event. This week, the Soldier will return to the competition with even higher goals–he hopes to be named the Ultimate Warrior by accruing the most points in a pentathlon-style event.

Eight months ago Guerrero’s right leg was amputated, but recently he was fitted with a prosthetic leg that allows him to walk and even run. Determined to be in prime condition for the event, Guerrero has dedicated himself to a rigorous training program over the last several months.

“Since I still have some residual pain from my amputation surgery, I think that the 100-meter run will probably be the toughest event for me,” he said. “But the Warrior Games have been a great motivator for me to keep training no matter what.”

That same sense of determination sustained Guerrero through three deployments to Iraq. During his most recent deployment, he served with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Airborne), and was in charge of leading a team of nearly two dozen Soldiers.

In June 2007, Guerrero was out on a mission with his team when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under their Humvee. True to his role as a leader, Guerrero thought of the safety of the other Soldiers in his vehicle, despite his own injuries.

“My main concern was for my driver and my gunner. There was a lot of smoke in the vehicle, but once I determined that they were okay, I realized that I was wounded,” he said. “My legs felt like they were on fire and once my Soldiers were able to get me out of the vehicle, I saw my right leg and realized it was bad.”

Shrapnel from the IED blast shattered the bones in Guerrero’s right tibia, and much of his right calf and left heel were damaged in the explosion. He was immediately evacuated to Baghdad, Iraq, for emergency surgery on his leg, and later moved to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., where he spent more than four months recovering and undergoing multiple skin grafts to help repair his right leg.

Yet, the pain in his leg was so persistent and severe that Guerrero made the decision to have his right leg amputated below the knee last September. As he enters a new phase in his recovery process, Guerrero is grateful to have the added goal of competing in the second annual Warrior Games – and winning the Ultimate Champion title.

“From seeing the competition that was there last year, I know it’s going to be a tough crowd, but I’m focused on my own goals,” he said. “I want to defend my shooting title, but I intend to do well in the other events, too.”

Currently, the Soldier lives with his wife and three children in the San Antonio, Texas area, and he is continuing to recover at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

To learn more about the Warrior Games, please visit http://www.usparalympics.org/pages/8330 and http://www.wtc.army.mil/about_us/warriorgames.html. Additionally, to learn more about the Warrior Transition Command and its commitment to adaptive sports, please visit http://wtc.armylive.dodlive.mil/.

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