As the eldest of three, growing up in Yuma, Ariz., Spc. Hilario Juarez-Arevalo knew he always wanted to set a good example for his younger brother and sister.
So, at 18, he decided to join the Army, he said.
“The recruiter talked to me and I liked what he was saying and so I signed up,” said Juarez-Arevalo, now 20. “I liked the idea of being able to move out at 18 and of pretty much being financially stable.”
Juarez-Arevalo’s service would eventually take him from Arizona to Afghanistan, where, on June 15, he had a date with destiny.
A trained medic, Juarez-Arevalo was used to taking care of other Soldiers, to seeing to their medical needs. But, on that fateful June day, Juarez-Arevalo would become the patient and need the expertise of other medics to save his life.
While on patrol, he stepped on an improvised explosive device, injuring his right leg and suffering a concussion. Juarez-Arevalo said he heard other Soldiers call for a medic and realized he was the one who needed medical assistance.
“It was just weird. I couldn’t believe it,” Juarez-Arevalo said. “I always knew it (injury) was possible, that something could happen to me, but I never really thought about what I’d do if it did.”
He has spent months undergoing rehabilitation and is currently assigned to Co. D, Warrior Transition Battalion.
“I got lucky. My leg was swollen and bruised to the knee, but nothing was broken,” he said. “I’m pretty good. I started walking a few months ago.”
For his injuries, Juarez-Arevalo was awarded a Purple Heart.
As for his future commitment to the Army, Juarez-Arevalo said he has two years left on his contract, and is still undecided about reenlistment.
But, being a Soldier seems to have given him great perspective.
“It’s a great accomplishment — not many people can do this or not many people want to do this. At the end of the day, it feels good to know you are doing something and not staying stagnant like some of your friends who aren’t in the military,” he said.