The Heroes: Sgt.Chris Maddeford, Sgt. Stephen Jackel and Captain Marlene Krpata.
sgt chris maddeford, Executive Director, Operation: Blue Pride
Chris Maddeford was a Sergeant in the U.S Army, he deployed to Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Chris was hit by an IED, [Improvised Explosive Device], Chris has a Traumatic Brain Injury, four anchors in his right hip, sever spinal cord damage, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from IED blast. Chris had a hard time readjusting back into society after deployment; it was not in till he received his service dog AJ from NEADS that he was able to get back out into society. Chris has dedicated his life for helping veterans and has received an award from the United States congress for his work. Chris has been diving since end of April 2012; he has logged over 400 dives along with 8 specialties, Rescue diver and is almost done with his Dive master.
Chris is one of three veterans selected to participate in Operation: Blue Pride - a global project to help protect the world's oceans. Responsibilities include public outreach, social-media outreach, on-camera documentary interviews and working on location (in some cases with large sharks). Chris is now the Executive Director of Operation Blue Pride.
Operation: Blue Pride was founded in 2012 in an effort to help severely wounded veterans returning from war. The hand-selected team of veterans works though inspirational messaging to make people aware of the challenges the ocean faces. Chris finds it unacceptable what is happening in our ocean and sharks particular, and has made it his mission to fight for it.
Captain marlene krpata
Marlene enlisted in the United States Army in 1995 after receiving her college degree. She loved the Army so much that she she accepted and completed Officer Candidate School. In 2005, she was deployed to Kosovo and then had a follow on tour to Iraq in 2006. While serving in Iraq, Marlene was injured in a mortar attack. From 2007 to 2011 she was a 'limb salvage' attempting to save the right lower portion of her leg. In 2011 she decided to amputate her leg below the knee. Like so many other returning wounded vets, Marlene suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and severe depression. She even attempted taking her life at one point. It is at this point Marlene's life started to change. It first started with receiving her service dog, Gracie, from a wonderful organization called Tender Loving Canines. She also learned the healing powers of the ocean. She found a source of peace in her swims in the ocean. With this new found love of the ocean she received her SCUBA certification with the help of Dive Pirates this past July. Marlene states "being under the water is the one place that my mind stops spinning and I just can relax and enjoy the view."
sgt stephen jackel
My name is Sergeant Stephen Wayne Jackel Jr. I am 34 years old. I have an amazing and very supportive wife named Adriana. I also have 6 wonderful kids: Maya (13), Renee (9), Zoey (8), Zayne (6), Zayden (4) and my youngest Jordyn. I also have a dog named Tyson.
I am a native Texan, born in Arlington on June 22, 1979. I grew up in Texas where I attended Crowley High School in Crowley, Texas.
I chose to enlist in the military on January 17, 2008. My first duty station was at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
I deployed to Iraq with the 4th Engineer Battalion in February of 2009 and our duties were route clearance. Basically – we made sure troops could get through safely. Our motto quickly became, "We get blown up so you don't have to." Unfortunately – it would become deadly true.
After Iraq, I was deployed to Afghanistan as part of the 30,000 man surge.
Afghanistan was nothing like Iraq. We were in two to three firefights a day – one lasting 12 hours. The Taliban killed my best friend and another friend. Another 17 soldiers would die in battle.
We returned to the US in February 2010, I earned my rank of Sergeant and met my wife-to-be Adriana.
After getting married, we moved to Ft. Wainwright in Alaska.
I deployed again to Afghanistan in May of 2011. I would find myself in the same hellish combat zone – and it would almost end my life.
I was severely wounded in southern Afghanistan on August 23rd, 2011 – but my previous combat experience helped me save the lives of four men.
At about 1300 on August 23, 2011, my MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle) was struck and destroyed by an IED. The sudden explosion tore into the vehicle. Next thing I knew, I awoke to the sounds of two soldiers screaming "Fire!" and I realized that both my legs were broken.
Using my hands, I moved myself to position my body in a way so I could put the fire out using my right leg. I violently thrashed my limp leg on the fire to smother the flames. I was damaging my leg even more in the process – but there was no time to think about it. Survival for me and my men was the only thing I cared about.
Once the fire was out, I pulled myself to the back door using the wiring on the ceiling. We had to get out – and I had to get my four soldiers out of the vehicle. The hydraulic door was latched, so I gathered my strength so I could lift my broken body to unlatch the hatch above me. It worked. We were fre.
We were airlifted to Kandahar Air Field where the five of us received treatment. Next it was on to Bahgram where both my legs underwent treatment. I was then airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where they amputated my lower right leg a few inches below the knee. The explosion and the fire cost me my leg, but I was alive – and so were my men.
I arrived at SAMMC on August 28th 2011 where I went through a 10 hour surgery where they placed nine screws and two braces in my left foot. I spent fourths in a wheel chair before I could walk. I would walk again - nothing else was acceptable to me. I spent four months in a wheel chair before I could walk.
I made it through – with love and care.
I am very blessed to have received the support from family, friends, medical personnel, and organizations who were with me.
The hell I was in wasn't over yet. I suffered chronic pain in my left foot, migraines/headaches, TBI, PTSD, and lower back pain.
Due to the pain, they would have to amputate my left foot on January 11, 2013.
I have been awarded the Purple Heart, 4 Army Commendation Metals one of which is of "Valor", 2 Army Achievement Metals, 2 NATO ISAF Metals, 4 Overseas Service Ribbons, 2 Afghanistan Campaign medals with 4 3/16" bronze stars, 1 Iraq Campaign Medal with 1 3/16" bronze star, Good Conduct Medal, NCO Developmental Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Nation Defense Medal. I am also honored to wear the Presidential Valorous Unit Citation and the Meritorious Unit Citation.
I have been rated as an NCO twice, the first rating was a 2/2 and the second was a 1/1.
I am humbled by the awards I've been given, but what is more important to me are my soldiers and doing whatever I could to prepare them for war.
I stated this by talking about my family – they are the love which keeps me going. But it's also about courage. If we have the courage to face each day – get out of bed and do what we must do, everything will work out. I want to spread this message to as many people as I can.
That's why I am also proud to be a part of Operation: Blue Pride – I will do whatever it takes to inspire others on how to overcome the impossible.
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