Michael Jernigan is a U.S. Marine who proudly served with Company E 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine regiment. On August 22, 2004, while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried under the ground. The IED threw him 20 meters from his Humvee. Michael suffered life-threatening and life-changing injuries that day. 45% of his cranium was crushed in. Shrapnel entered his right eye and exited through his left eye, cutting everything in between. He had to have two fingers reattached and his left knee fully reconstructed. The attack fractured his patella and severed his femoral artery. Michael is one of the first U.S. service members to lose both eyes in the global war on terror. He endured 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months, and spent 16 months in hospitals and rehab facilities.
In the 15 years since the attack, Michael has taken his second chance at life and turned it into something that is never taken for granted. He volunteers his time whenever it is needed, and always offers a helping hand. For his dedication and continual community service, Michael was award the ‘Veteran of the Year Award’ from his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Thirteen years ago, Michael co-founded Paws for Patriots at South Eastern Guide Dogs, which provides guide dogs and service animals to Veterans. He has touched thousands of lives through his motivational speaking, peer-to-peer counseling and his book, titled Vision. Michael’s continued service to others has not gone unnoticed, and on Nov. 9, 2017, he was awarded ‘The Ross Perot Patriot award’. Michael has turned the most traumatic experience of his life into a life filled with a new purpose: to help others gain their vision.
Today, Michael is the Vice President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation, providing him with a platform to champion issues that our blinded Veterans face when returning home. He and his wife, KimberLee, recently relocated to Texas from Florida. Michael and KimberLee have continued to be active within the military community and make themselves available to others in similar situations when needed, knowing the struggles our severally wounded Veterans and their spouses face.