Hometown: Philadephia, PA
Branch of Service: United States Marine Corps
Status: Medically Retired, SSgt, June 2009, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, Balboa Hospital, C5
Injury Date: Iraq 2003/04 Deployment
Injury: TBI, PTSD, Spinal Injury, Nerve Damage
Deployments: Dec 2001-Jun 2002 / Aug 2003-Mar 2004
Off shore/In Country Operations during deployments: Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Katherine Ragazzino graduated from Northeast High School in 1995 and joined the Marines 18 months later. Serving twelve and a half years, her primary duty was in Administration, but definitely not limited to that field. Calling herself “an outside of the box thinker,” she was always ready to take on new challenges. This attitude led her to becoming a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, proficient in both lethal and non-lethal tactics, who trained and deployed with Special Operation Capable Units. Katherine also trained to become a Camp Pendleton Range Inspector.
During her military service, Katherine was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. In 2004 while in Iraq, Katherine sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that dramatically affected her life. Though she did her best to overcome both cognitive and physical impairments, they eventually proved to be serious and long lasting.
In December 2007, Katherine was transferred to Wounded Warrior Battalion West, located at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. At Balboa Hospital, she was placed in the Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center (C5) to help her with her brain injury and post traumatic stress. The C5 program is designed to take soldiers through successive stages of treatment, such as reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation, to a level of functioning. The goal of C5 is to allow patients to return to full active duty or help them transition successfully to civilian life and employment.
For a year and a half, Katherine lived on hospital grounds with injured Marines and other service members as she received daily treatment. In June 2009, she was Honorably Discharged and Medically Retired from the Marines. Eight months after her discharge, she was an inpatient at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, California for three months, as part of her Trauma Recovery Program. Talking about her treatment, she says, “I now understand what is meant when it is said: ‘Through disabilities, there are possibilities.’”
Katherine admits, “I have difficulties with both long term and short term memory. And PTSD has caused me to become very distant to loved ones and friends. Writing my biography, although brief, was extremely hard for me to recall and share openly. This has taken me weeks to write due to avoidance, fear and impaired communication skills. Now, for the first time in years, I am allowing people into my very, very private world. This is yet another step towards the road to recovery.”
Summing up her past, she said, “Whether working in a support role or being the one supported I was very motivated, I wore my uniform with pride and with honor everyday! I was committed to each mission at hand.”
Katherine participated in the October 2010 World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ Soldiers to the Summit expedition to Nepal, and participated in the organization’s February 2012 Soldiers to the Summit Snowbird expedition. She is the only member of the 2010 expedition to participate in the 2012 expedition. Katherine also has participated in Adventure TEAM Challenges in Colorado.
Katherine said of her involvement in the expeditions: “I am truly honored to be part of the monumental expedition with World T.E.A.M. Sports, Soldiers to the Summit Nepal. This opportunity planted the seed towards change in my life. In a spiritual way that I never felt before. I have worked hard to weed out the negative around me. I take it one day at a time.”
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou