Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran James Pierce, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan before joining the National Park Service.
James Pierce was born in Gretna, Louisiana, where he lived for nine years before moving to High Point, North Carolina. He felt compelled to join the Army National Guard after taking part in his high school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. While Pierce was still a senior in high school in 2001, he enlisted in the Army National Guard. After graduating, he enrolled in classes at Appalachian State University.
Pierce decided to take his second semester in college off so that he could attend basic training and advanced individual training. During his junior year of college, he deployed overseas. Pierce served in Kuwait and delivered supplies throughout the country of Iraq. On his first ever mission, his convoy was under fire. In an interview with the American Veterans Center, Pierce commented on the effect this had on him, saying, “The first one just opened my eyes.”
His first deployment lasted until September 2006. Upon his return, he finished his education at Appalachian State University. After graduating in 2009, Pierce completed a humanitarian mission in El Salvador. During this tour, his unit protected American military stationed in the area, built a road and a school, and refurbished other parts of the community.
In 2012, Pierce served in Afghanistan. While performing a dismounted patrol in the city of Khost, an Afghan police officer walked up to Pierce’s unit and set off a bomb. The blast blew Pierce on his back and caused injuries to the left side of his body. The attack killed three members of his squad. Pierce went to receive treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and then to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
After several surgeries and rehabilitation, Pierce regained his ability to run, which doctors initially thought would be impossible based on his extensive injuries. He retired from the military as a staff sergeant in August 2015 and found a job with the National Park Service. Pierce received a Purple Heart for his injuries in Afghanistan.
Pierce currently works as a park ranger and volunteer coordinator for National Memorial Park in Washington, D.C. When asked about what his job duties entail, Pierce offered, “What I like to say is that I’m a jack of all trades, but a master of none.”
Thank you for your service!
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Amanda Baker
Editors: Katherine Berman and Christopher Wilson
Fact checker: Lia Sansoucy
Graphic artist: Grace Yang