After the events on September 11th, NY native, Sam Cila, decided to join the NY National Guard. He swiftly became a Sergeant in the 1st Batallion, 69th Infantry Regiment.
Sam's guard unit was deployed to Iraq in October 2004, where he was supposed to be on a year-long combat tour. However, on July 4th, 2005, he was wounded by a large blast while on patrol in Baghdad. His platoon medic was able to stabilize his wounds, and he was evacuated to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. His wounds caused limited mobility in his left arm, and no use of his left hand. Surgeons wanted to amputate his left arm from the shoulder down. After two years of no mobility in his hand, Sam decided to have surgery in December 2008 for the amputation of his left hand. He is now fully functioning with his new prosthetic.
Sam has a loving wife, Anna, and two children, Evan and Sam, ages 4 and 8 respectively. He is happy to be able to tie his kids shoes and zip up their coats again.
Sam is now an active member of Operation Rebound; a program offered by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which is a charitable organization that provides support to our troops and veterans of any branch of service who have suffered permanent physical injuries in the line of duty. This program offers wounded service people opportunities to rehabilitate through sport.
Sam has competed in many triathlons. He has also formed a meaningful friendship with Operation Rebound Program Manager, Nico Marcolongo, (see his bio later in document) who has guided Sam and his family in dealing with serious issues relating to his injury, including his addiction to painkillers, depression and getting back into family life.
Sam joined Nico in last year's Buddy Bowl, a competitive football game that raises money for military and law enforcement personnel who have become disabled in the line-of-duty. Their families even had Thanksgiving together, showing an example of the significant bonds shared between fellow soldiers and proving the importance of support networks.
Major David Rozelle, a below-knee amputee, is an icon, resource and inspirational figure for American service members injured in recent conflicts.
While in Iraq, commanding 140 troops of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Dave lost part of his right leg when a landmine exploded under his Humvee. When Dave was evacuated home, he began a year-long rehabilitation process.
Within eight months from his original accident, Dave participated in his first triathlon, completing the CAF San Diego Triathlon Challenge in 2004 and became a proud CAF supporter.
A year to the day from his injury, Dave once again assumed command of his unit and deployed to Iraq, becoming the first service member to return to a combat zone as a commander in modern times.
Dave was the inspiration behind CAF Operation Rebound and serves as a role model and mentor for the program. He represented CAF at the Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene and was recognized with the Ford Ironman Everyday Hero Award. Afterward, Dave was driven to conquer the 2006 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona. In Hawaii, he improved his time by more than an hour, finishing in 12:46:26.
Dave remains on active duty and continues to inspire other injured service members to find and use the healing power of sports.
Michael, 28, was injured on duty in the US Army. His wife Tiffany, 31, is a member of the National Guard.
On Michael's very last day in Iraq, where he was stationed as a bridge builder in February 2004, Michael's vehicle was hit by an IED. He woke up the next day in a hospital in Baghdad. Michael had sustained significant memory loss, but stayed conscious long enough to call his wife and tell her he was in the hospital.
Tiffany, on active duty herself for the National Guard, spent the next two days trying to track down her husband. Among physical injuries, Michael was subsequently diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in his frontal lobe. He was later also diagnosed with severe PTSD and a personality disorder as a side effect. He now deals with anger issues and memory loss everyday.
The adjustment at home wasn't an easy one. Michael says when he came home "it was quite clear, I wasn't the same person". His two girls, aged 4 and 7 at the time, would ask their mother "what happened to our superhero... he's not super anymore?"
The Martins have three children, Issiah, 10 months, Mikayla, 8 and Lexie, 11. Mikayla seemed to be the most affected by her father's changes, constantly questioning "Why is daddy mad?" and "Why is daddy yelling, or won't play". However, she continues to get better at understanding the situation as the family works hard to create a "new normal".
Their oldest daughter seems to have become the most aware and nurturing; she often goes to camps such as Operation Purple and seems interested in helping other families who are going through similar traumas.
Michael explained that the birth of his young son was a turning point for him and his approach to the anger. "My son is my little miracle, and I have learned to curb my anger and be happy for all the good things in my life. It's hard to be angry with all these small people running around."
The Martin family lives in North Carolina, about a mile from Michael's parents. The family participates in Operation Purple and the Healing Adventures, which are programs created to help military children struggling with having a parent deployed.
Nico is a San Diego native, who attended UC Davis and received a Bachelors Degree in Mandarin Chinese. He then played professional football in France. In March 1994, he entered the Marines as a 2nd Lt. Nico has been married for 6 years and has a son named Rocco. Rocco was 2 years old when Nico was first deployed to Baghdad in February of 2005. Nico was deployed for a second time the following year.
Upon Nico's return home, in 2007, he felt extremely disconnected from everything and everyone in his life. Rocco, now 5 years old, could notice the change in his dad, saying things like, "dad, snap out of it!" and "daddy's crying again." Nico immediately sought help and is doing everything he can to combat the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He is a great leader for the CAF Operation Rebound and acts as a great mentor to many of the soldiers who are involved in the organization, including Sam Cila. Though Nico seeks help for himself, enough cannot be said about the mentoring he does for others.