SGT Juan Hernandez
Mission Accomplished on September 23, 2023
Juan Carlos Hernandez enlisted in the Army right after high school with a strong desire to serve his country. Having immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of eight, Juan felt the need to serve the country that gave so much to him. The Army provided many opportunities for him and helped expedite his path to U.S. citizenship. He became an American citizen while on his first deployment to Afghanistan in May 2009.
On Oct. 13, 2009, Sergeant Hernandez was conducting a nighttime aerial operation as a door-gunner with Task Force Palehorse, 7/17th Cav, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, when the Chinook helicopter he was flying in was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). SGT Hernandez was the only one injured during the incident, sustaining severe damage to his right leg. He was medevaced to Bagram Air Base, where surgeons amputated his right leg.
Once back in the United States, Juan moved quickly through his rehabilitation. By late December, he received his first prosthetic. Through the Center for the Intrepid, Juan was able to get involved with adaptive sports, including sled hockey, wheelchair basketball, hand-cycling, and eventually upright cycling. “It was with the help and encouragement from my family, friends, and therapist that I was able to get into the right mindset and not let my injuries keep me from moving forward and living a life filled with adventures and achievements,” he says.
Juan is grateful he can still engage in the many activities he enjoys. In addition to his athletic endeavors, he loves gardening and camping with his fiancée Margaret Mullen. Juan completed his master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Loma Linda University in the spring of 2023. He works at VA Loma Linda Health Care in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Margo works for the City of Rancho Cucamonga as Senior Librarian, Head of Museum Services. They enjoy spending time with their Golden Mountain Doodle, Maizie, and their two cats, Mango and Fig.
Juan’s former home was non-adapted, and he often had difficulty maneuvering from room to room. He routinely worried about falling when transitioning in and out of the shower. Receiving a specially adapted custom home mitigated many of these issues. “Having a home with adaptations enables me to live peacefully at home without worrying about injuring myself,” he says.
Additionally, living in a barrier-free environment allows Juan to concentrate on advancing his career instead of focusing on the obstacles in his home. He has time and energy to dedicate to volunteering and community involvement. “Receiving this home enables us to pay it forward to other Veterans who are also in need of specially adapted homes, whether it is volunteering with the organization or becoming a peer mentor for other Veterans in the program,” Juan says.
Juan wants HFOT donors and supporters to know that without their support, this organization could not continue. “Your generosity is what keeps programs like this alive and able to continue changing the lives of severely injured Veterans,” he says. “Thank you for helping Veterans such as myself live a life as independently as possible while graciously aging in place.”