SAN ANTONIO -- U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena, a highly-decorated tactical air control
party member (who is noted for calling in coordinated close support
air strikes that killed up to 70 Taliban members in one fight), sat
down with a crossbow draped across his lap and a target 25 meters in
front of him, reminiscing about the night that changed his life
"I have gone on multiple deployments, defeated the
Taliban; I never thought another American would do this to me," said
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena.
"Man, I never used to
sweat this much," said Pena. "One thing about losing your leg is
that you sweat so much more. Before, I remember dreading going on
long runs. Now, I would love to be able to do that again."
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena,
former tactical control air party member and now member of the 59th
Medical Wing Patient Squadron, aims his compound bow at his target
at a local archery shop in San Antonio, Sept. 12, 2014. After being
injured by a drunk driver who ran a red light, Pena practices
archery for hours each to week to keep busy. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Senior Airman Michael Ellis)
One night while Pena was riding his motorcycle, a drunk
driver ran a red light and crashed into him. As Pena was
flung from his bike, the driver attempted to flee the scene
but was apprehended by a military person who witnessed the
Pena doesn't recall the incident, as he
suffered traumatic brain injury, multiple broken bones and
fractures all over his body and lost the majority of his
blood. In addition, Pena died immediately at the scene but
was resuscitated once medical personnel arrived.
"I actually died twice,"
Pena said with a sobering tone. "I also died in the
helicopter ride to the hospital. The doctor had all my
coworkers come into my hospital room and they started
screaming my name. Miraculously, my heart started pumping
Pena was in a coma for 20 days before he
regained consciousness. The doctor told the nurses and his
family not to mention that his left leg was amputated. Since
he had suffered severe brain trauma, he was unsure how Pena
would accept the news.
"One day as the nurse came in
to bath me, she said that she wanted to show me something,"
said Pena. "She removed the wrap and I could see my leg was
gone. I mean I knew my leg and ankle was hurting and in a
lot of pain, but I had no clue until she showed me."
Six months later, Pena was able to leave the hospital and
was transferred to the 59th Medical Wing Patient Squadron at
Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San
"The Patient Squadron has
been awesome, "said Pena. "I remember when the general in
charge came to greet us during the grand opening. You can
tell that he really cared about the wounded warriors."
Pena described how coming to the patient squadron marked
an incredible milestone with his treatment.
of being an inpatient, you are treated as an outpatient
where you get to do your own thing."
interacting with others in the patient squadron, Pena
acquired a new hobby to occupy some of his free time. Pena
started practicing archery for hours each week and is now
"I injured my right elbow when I fell
and they had to freeze it, so I started practicing with my
left," said Pena. "I now shoot left-handed and am more
accurate than before."
Pena has become so accurate
that he has been selected to compete in the 2014 Warrior
Games being held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sept. 28
through Oct. 4, 2014. He will be competing with other elite
athletes from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast
Guard and Special Operations.
"The amount of stuff
that had to happen in order for me to still be here--quick
responding emergency crew, dying twice and waking out of a
coma after 20 days-- my odds of surviving were as slim as
winning the lottery," stated Pena. "I thank God I'm still
here. I got some adversity now, but I'm learning to live
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Ellis
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