On October 22, 2011, United States Marine Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) while out on patrol with allied forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The blast destroyed his left leg, which was amputated below the knee, and left his right leg permanently injured.
Sanchez was shipped stateside to recover at the Brooke Army Medical Center’s Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas, the sergeant’s hometown. Four and a half years later, he’s going to run the 120th Boston Marathon. The para-athlete, who ran his first marathon just last October at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., will be running with Team Semper Fi for the Semper Fi Fund — an organization whose sole purpose is to “provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families.”
Sanchez doesn’t expect Monday’s marathon to be easy, but he knows the struggle will be worth it. After all, he’s just a kid who joined the Marines straight out of high school on a whim. Now he gets to show the people of Boston, and the world, how we can make ourselves whole again after tragedy.
You joined the U.S. Marine Corps right after graduating?
Yeah, it was a last-minute decision. I was a pretty good athlete in high school. My senior year, I was aiming for 1,000 rushing yards, but then I hurt my foot. Then I thought, “Fuck no one’s gonna want me.” That was my thing, to rush 1,000 yards and go from there. So I decided to get out, especially since staying in that area, all we did was drink and do drugs. I couldn’t stay there. I ended up joining the Marines. It took three or four months, and then I was shipped off to basic training in San Diego.
You said it was last-minute. What’d your parents think?
It came out of nowhere. It was May, and we were graduating in three weeks. I went and talked to the recruiter, took the tests and signed up, but my parents didn’t even know it. So when I told them I’d signed up, they were stunned. “What?” They didn’t know what to say. My mom started crying and my dad was just quiet, but they supported me. Before that I’d always been the troublemaker, but when I actually graduated I saw how proud they were of my accomplishments — getting my diploma, becoming a Marine.