PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This Veteran’s Day AM Extra is putting the spotlight on those who served, and the people helping to make sure their sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed.

For most veterans, the decision to enlist was a life-changing one. For some, it led to life-altering trauma.

This week KOIN 6’s Emily Burris talked with retired Army Sergeant Salvador Trujillo, a decorated Iraq War veteran.

9/11 was a turning point for Salvador Trujillo. At almost 18-years-old he watched the towers crumbling on TV and decided, in that moment, he wanted to fight for his country.

“I always looked up to the military and always wondered what it would take to get there,” said Trujillo. “I am an immigrant to this country, and I wanted to give back in a way to the United States for giving me the life that it gave me. So, I thought the best way to join was during combat operations while we’re at war.”

The husband and new father enlisted in the Army. He was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, serving in the 101st Airborne Division. In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq where he joined a unit near Baghdad.

On June 23, 2006, the armored vehicle he was a gunner in was hit by an IED in Muqdadiyah.

“It was very difficult,” he recalled. “One day you’re in full combat mode, then you wake up weeks later and you’re in the hospital.”

He and his crew survived but with devastating injuries. Sergeant Trujillo suffered burns on more than half his body.

“Dealing with the doctors, appointments, surgeries — it had a big impact,” he said. “It’s a mental game. Ask any soldier who got injured, they’ll tell you it was. It was very hard to accept. You can’t do operations anymore and leaving my guys behind was kind of tough. Very tough actually.”

Once back in the U.S., he was connected with Semper Fi & America’s Fund.

“I signed up with them in 2015, and they’ve been there ever since,” Trujillo said. “While every case is unique, many of the soldiers are amputees or paralyzed. They provide extensive support through a lot of programs, like PTSD and caregiver support.”

They helped throughout a long, difficult recovery and continued to offer support long after Trujillo was out of the hospital and had recovered from his countless surgeries. In 2020, a roof leak damaged the home he lives in with his wife and four children.

“Within a week they had my roof fixed and ready to go,” said Trujillo. “That was a big stress reliever, especially in the winter. It was one phone call away, a few emails and papers signed, and my house was back to normal, and I didn’t have to worry about it and have that stress. I really thank them for that because it helped my family a lot, they’re just a great nonprofit organization.”

The Fund also hosts events helping connect veterans and their spouses with other families, navigating life after injury in service.

Nowadays Trujillo has his commercial driver’s license and is working towards becoming a fishing guide. He says fishing trips on the Columbia River were life-changing, so much so he bought his own boat, and now wants to share that experience with other veterans.

“It’s such a therapeutic moment every time I get out, I could be having the worst day and when you go fishing, you totally forget about it,” said Trujillo. “We get to get out all our bad thoughts, ask for advice and help each other”

The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, along with PXG are hosting a match program. The charity from Bob Parsons — the entrepreneur behind GoDaddy and Parsons Extreme Golf — and PXG is matching dollar for dollar every donation made to the fund up to $10 million.

Donations can be made on the Semper Fi & America’s Fund’s website.