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  • Age
    57
  • Occupation
    Customer Service Field Analyst
  • Company
    Southern California Gas Sempra Energy
  • Location
    Garden Grove Base, Calif.

The mortar that blinded Army Sgt. Major Jesse Acosta hit him in the middle of the Iraq desert on Jan. 16, 2006. He lost both of his eyes and part of his jaw, and suffered traumatic brain injury. In all, he would undergo close to 40 operations—struggling with the VA for health care, only to be prescribed painkillers. He became addicted, he says, to opiates for four years. But Acosta battled back, kicking his painkiller habit and learning to navigate without sight. And in 2009, he began using own recovery to inspire others, founding a nonprofit organization called Thank A Vet to provide workforce training to veterans. He also joined the board of another charity, The Independence Fund, which provides equipment and therapies to injured vets. Acosta now devotes all of his vacation days to traveling the country—with his German Shepherd guide dog, Charlie Boy—to promote the fund, which has purchased land in South Carolina to build a treatment center for wounded veterans. As to what drives him, Acosta has a ready answer: “It’s the care that these men and women are entitled to that they’re not getting, number one.”

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