At 21, Carlos Hafen-Martinez, still has a child-like smile. The Army sergeant has already lived through what some can't even imagine.
As a child, Hafen-Martinez knew he wanted to be in the army. When he turned 18, he enlisted and went to serve in Iraq. But after only two months, things took a wrong turn
On February 8, 2008, Hafen-Martinez’s squadron was sent to check out activity on a road nearby. While on that road their vehicle was hit with an explosive device.
Out of 10 soldiers in that squadron four died.
Hafen-Martinez survived, but was in bad shape. He suffered multiple fractures to his spine, left leg, right ankle, left hand and ribs. He also suffered a punctured lung.
In just moments his life had changed. Suddenly, his goal was doing what so many of us take for granted.
“When I got here I was in a wheelchair, could barely walk,” said Hafen-Martinez.
After two and a half years in physical therapy, his health has improved dramatically.
“Still pain here and there, but you get used to it I guess,” he said.
Members wanted to try in some small way to show Hafen-Martinez how much they appreciate and recognize his sacrifice.
As far as his fellow soldiers who were also injured in the attack, he says time and daily life have drifted them apart.
“They ended up getting better a lot faster than I did, so they all went back and got re-deployed,” he said.
Sgt. Carlos says he loves the army, but in about two months, he'll be discharged for medical reasons.
Now surrounded by his family, and honored by a local group, he says he'll always be proud of serving his country.