Retired Army Staff Sergeant Juan D. Aguilar dedicated his career to serving his country and protecting our freedoms. This 17-year military veteran was wounded once in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq. He was
awarded three Purple Hearts for the injuries he sustained in combat, and a Silver Star for his gallantry in battle. After spending the last three years of his military service in a Warrior Transition Battalion, he was forced into early retirement by the wounds he sustained in combat.
His military career suddenly cut short, Aguilar found it difficult to adjust to civilian life back home. The lingering effects of a traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made it even more difficult to adapt. He was also missing the sense of being part of something bigger, which the military had given him. "Retired life is tough when all you know how to do is put on a uniform every day and serve your country," he says. "I honestly felt that no longer being on active duty would ruin my life."
A small gesture soon changed Aguilar's outlook. Some DU volunteers
had heard about the sacrifices this American hero had made. They had also heard that he enjoyed duck hunting
. These volunteers got in touch with DU Alaska Regional Director Dave Weber, who called Aguilar last October to invite him on sea duck hunt near Valdez, Alaska. "That phone call really changed my life and how I felt about being a veteran," Aguilar says.
By his own account, Aguilar's first sea duck hunt was a great success. He even came away with a handsome Barrow's goldeneye
mount to remember it by. And he came away with something else too—a feeling again of being part of something bigger. "Ducks Unlimited is my favorite organization, and to be invited to hunt along with some of the representatives of DU, to me that was just an opportunity of a lifetime," he says. "The gentlemen and representatives of DU in Alaska are among the finest I know. I hope they can be recognized for the great treat they gave this wounded warrior."
Those who made this special hunt possible include Bill Connell, district chairman, South Central Alaska; Scotty Wilkins, area chairman, Fairbanks; Dave Bergman, area chairman, Valdez; the Valdez Coast Guard Station; and Daniel Williams of Sea Duck Taxidermy in Kodiak, Alaska.