Mark Holbert’s Biosketch
My name is Mark Holbert. I was born on August 31, 1976, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Thirty-four years later, I again landed at Andrews, only this time I was fighting for my life after being injured in Afghanistan.
I spent my childhood living all over the world because we were a military family. My father’s assignments took me from Maryland, to Texas, Guam, West Virginia, and even to England. My father served our wonderful country for 25 years, and my grandfather fought in WWII. As long as I can remember during my childhood, I was surrounded by the military, so I grew up always hoping to serve my country, too. When my father was stationed in Texas, I would play army in the abandoned buildings behind my house and crawl in the storm drains pretending I was clearing a tunnel full of bad guys. When we moved to England, my friends and I would wear our fathers’ fatigues, disguise our faces with camouflage paint, and play in the wheat fields.
November 13, 1996 was the day my hope became a reality. I 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, I received my orders to report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne, B Company 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment. During my four years as an Infantryman, I 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, I decided to change my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) to a Satellite Imagery Analyst. I attended Satellite Imagery Analyst School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. When I completed the course, I received orders back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After spending another year there in my new specialty, I received orders to go to Korea where I was assigned to the 102nd Military Intelligence Battalion on Camp Red Cloud.
After a year in Korea, I decided to attend the Special Forces Assessment Selection at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was selected and in February 2003, I started the Special Forces Qualification Course and graduated in August 2004. I 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, I became a Special Forces Intel Sergeant. During my time in 3rd Special Forces Group, I deployed to Afghanistan four times, and I also spent time in Pakistan and other countries throughout the Middle East.
I deployed to Afghanistan three times without serious injury, but on my fourth trip, my luck ran out. The day I was injured will forever be burned in my memory. It was August 16, 2010, a normal day in the Helmand Province: sunny, hot and dusty. We were responding to an explosion on the outer security perimeter of our forward operating base. When we 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 our engineers, everyone started to walk around the tower and the explosion site. My team sergeant, two Marines, and I walked into the tower to scan the orchards across the road. I left the tower to drive around the plateau with two other teammates to see if anyone was acting suspicious. After I returned back to the IED site, I walked over to talk to my team sergeant. When I was heading back to the vehicle, it happened. BOOM!! I stepped on an IED.
When the IED went off, I knew that I was injured. The first thing I did was to bring my hands to my face. I saw immediately that my thumb had been amputated, and I had suffered severe damage to my hands. I did not look down at my legs, because I just knew that they were missing, so I just yelled for my Medic. My Medic and my Special Forces brothers were trying to stop my bleeding, so they quickly wrapped my wounds assuring me that everything was going to be fine. Once the helicopter landed, and I was loaded on board, that is when I realized that both my legs were amputated above my knees. The last thing I remember was a British nurse on the helicopter telling me that everything was going to be okay, and that she was going to put me to sleep.
The next thing I remember was waking up six weeks later in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Walter Reed Hospital. That’s when I was told the extent of the injuries that I had suffered from the IED blast and subsequent infections.
On my right hand, I am missing a thumb, missing half of my middle finger, and have nerve damage along my forearm. My right leg is amputated above my knee, and my left leg is amputated to my hip because my injury from the blast developed a fungal infection.
Since my injuries, I have been busting my butt relearning to walk. I am determined to prove to certain individuals who told my family that I would never walk again and that they are wrong!!! How wrong? Well, I have recertified my scuba licenses, completed the Marine Corps Marathon, the Army 10-Miler, and the 200-mile American Odyssey relay race twice (I travel from Gettysburg to DC using my hand-cycle). My motorcycle was converted into a trike, I relearned playing golf, and I am driving again.
I’m back in school finishing my degree, and working at an internship until I am retired from the military. My future goals are to walk full-time, to go back to work supporting SOCOM, and to push myself to the limit knowing that nothing is impossible if I relentlessly try to do it.