SFC (Ret.) Mark Holbert, USA*
Mark Holbert was born on August 31, 1976, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Thirty-four years later, he again landed at Andrews, only this time he was fighting for his life after being injured in Afghanistan.
Mark spent his childhood living all over the world because he was from a military family. His father’s assignments took him from Maryland, to Texas, Guam, West Virginia, and even to England. His father served our wonderful country for 25 years, and his grandfather fought in WWII. As long as he can remember during his childhood, he was surrounded by the military, so he grew up always hoping to serve his country, too. When his father was stationed in Texas, he would play army in the abandoned buildings behind his house and crawl in the storm drains pretending he was clearing a tunnel full of bad guys.
November 13, 1996 was the day his hope became a reality. He was sworn into the United States Army and was shipped out to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. Upon completion of basic training and jump school, he received orders to report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne, B Company 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment. During his four years as an Infantryman, he attended jungle training school in Panama and then deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Thunder and Desert Focus. After four years as an Infantryman, he decided to change his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) to a Satellite Imagery Analyst. After spending another year there in his new specialty, he received orders to go to Korea where he was assigned to the 102nd Military Intelligence Battalion on Camp Red Cloud.
After a year in Korea, Mark decided to attend the Special Forces Assessment Selection at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was selected and in February 2003, he started the Special Forces Qualification Course and graduated in August 2004. Mark was awarded the MOS of Weapon Sergeant and was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group in October 2004. After doing that job for 3 years, he became a Special Forces Intel Sergeant. During his time in 3rd Special Forces Group, he deployed to Afghanistan four times, and also spent time in Pakistan and other countries throughout the Middle East.
Mark deployed to Afghanistan three times without serious injury, but on his fourth trip, his luck ran out. The day he was injured will forever be burned in his memory. It was August 16, 2010, a normal day in the Helmand Province: sunny, hot and dusty. They were responding to an explosion on the outer security perimeter of their forward operating base. When they arrived at the explosion site, everyone was on alert waiting for an ambush, or worse, for someone to set off an improvised explosive device (IED). Once the area was called cleared by the engineers, everyone started to walk around the tower and the explosion site. His team sergeant, two Marines, and he walked into the tower to scan the orchards across the road. He left the tower to drive around the plateau with two other teammates to see if anyone was acting suspicious. After he returned back to the IED site, he walked over to talk to his team sergeant. When he was heading back to the vehicle, it happened. He stepped on an IED.
When the IED went off, he knew that he was injured. He saw immediately that his thumb had been amputated, and he had suffered severe damage to his hands. He did not look down at his legs, because he just knew that they were missing, so he just yelled for his Medic. His Medic and his Special Forces brothers were trying to stop his bleeding, so they quickly wrapped his wounds assuring him that everything was going to be fine. Once the helicopter landed, and he was loaded on board, he realized that both legs were amputated above his knees. The last thing he remembers was a British nurse on the helicopter telling him everything was going to be okay, and that she was going to put him to sleep.
The next thing he remembers was waking up six weeks later in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Walter Reed Hospital. That’s when he was told the extent of the injuries from the IED blast and subsequent infections.
On his right hand, he is missing a thumb and half of a middle finger, and has nerve damage along his forearm. His right leg is amputated above his knee, and his left leg is amputated to his hip because his injury from the blast developed a fungal infection.
Since his injuries, he has been relearning to walk. He is going to prove to certain individuals who told his family that he would never walk again and that they are wrong!!! How wrong? Well, he recertified his scuba licenses, and completed the Marine Corps Marathon, the Army 10-Miler, and the 200-mile American Odyssey relay race twice. (He traveled from Gettysburg to DC using his hand-cycle). His motorcycle was converted into a trike, he relearned playing golf, and he is driving again.
Mark and his family have chosen to call Viriginia home. His future goals are to walk full-time, to go back to work supporting SOCOM, and to push himself to the limit knowing that nothing is impossible if he relentlessly try to do it. Mark provides inspiration to all who know him.