Twelve years ago, Craig J. was in a hospital bed in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, speaking with his mother from a satellite phone. He started the conversation by telling her that he was being promoted to corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. Then he explained where he was and why: He was one of five injured by an Improvised Explosive Device while on foot patrol during a joint service clearing operation south of Fallujah.
“The next moment that I really remember is laying on my back on the ground … and noticing that my camo bottoms were shredded,” said Craig, recalling the incident. He was just shy of 21 years old.
Craig’s injuries were severe; the blast threw him into the air and the damage nearly cost him his legs. Medical personnel worked to stabilize him enough to save them. Muscle reconstruction and skin grafts followed. And that was just the beginning. His mother and brother stayed with him during much of his two-month stay at Bethesda National Naval Hospital – now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – where he underwent additional surgeries.
Despite 15 surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy that continue today, Craig remains humble and determined to have a positive outlook on life. In 2007, he was awarded the Purple Heart, which recognizes service members wounded or killed in a combat environment.
“I’m fortunate to be alive and be able to do the things that I want to do,” he says. “The Purple Heart represents the sacrifice that our military members go through every day.”
Today, Craig is a program/property manager in USAA’s Marketing department, using his own experience and passion for the military to serve the company’s members.
As a veteran, Craig knows firsthand what military members and their families go through and has made advocating and educating fellow employees a priority. In fact, it was his experience as a member that drew him to the job.
“I was drawn to the mission, and it was a way to give back to military,” he said. “I’m very passionate about that. It makes it easy to come to work.”
Craig also serves as a leader in USAA’s veterans’ organization, VetNet, which is one of the many ways USAA keeps employees educated on military protocols and other details that help employees best serve members.
“The men and women of the U.S. military voluntarily serve, fully understanding the significant risks that come with their commitment, said Navy Vice Adm. (Ret.) John Bird, USAA senior vice president of Military Affairs. “We are very proud of and grateful for our employees and members who have earned the Purple Heart and are humbled by their service to our country.”
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