Joseph Serna was born and raised in Stockton, California. He joined the Army in May of 1995. Joseph attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and upon completion Joseph was awarded Military Occupational Specialty 13B, Cannon Crewmember.
For the next 6 years Joseph served in a succession of Army artillery units at Fort Riley, Kansas; There Republic of South Korea; and Fort Polk, Louisiana. During this period he felt a need to push himself further and made the decision to volunteer for Special Forces. After making the cut at the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course, Joseph was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2001 to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course. Over the next year Joseph completed the Special Forces Communications Sergeants course and was awarded the Green Beret.
Upon completion of training, Joseph was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), also located at Fort Bragg. Over the next 7 years, he completed two tours of duty in Colombia, training Colombian Military units how to conduct effective counter-narcotic and counter-insurgency operations in support of the Colombian Counter-Narcotic Initiative, and three combat deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During his first combat deployment in 2006, while operating in Southern Afghanistan, his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Joseph was thrown from the bed of the vehicle, sustained only minor injuries and was able to complete the rest of the deployment. However, his teammates were not as lucky. One was killed by the blast and two others were seriously injured.
In June 2008, during the third combat deployment, Joseph was involved in two incidents that led to both physical and mental wounds. In June, while his team was on a night mission to recover the remains of a fallen member of another team, the road gave away under the MRAP Joseph was riding in rolled into an irrigation canal and was totally submerged. When the remaining part of his team recovered his crew from the vehicle forty-five minutes later, Joseph learned that he was the sole survivor, the other three teammates having drowned while trapped in the vehicle. He was given the option of returning home but chose to stay with my team and continue the deployment.
Two months later, in August 2008 while questioning a detained Taliban fighter on a tactical objective, the fighter detonated a grenade hidden on his person. Joseph suffered blast and shrapnel injuries to his face, torso, and upper and lower extremities and was subsequently returned stateside for treatment of his injuries. Joseph sustained shrapnel wounds to the pancreas which started a succession of surgeries.
Initially, Joseph was expected to make a full recovery and return to duty. However, complications resulted in a total of five operations over the next four years in an attempt to repair his abdominal wall. The fifth operation was finally successful but it was recommended that He discontinued the rigorous life style he had led as a Special Forces soldier. While his unit and regiment were willing to let him continue his career within physical limitations, Joseph personally realized his best days as a soldier were behind him.
While recovering from his physical wounds was a long, hard road, it was the mental wounds that were the most troublesome. The grief of losing close friends and the guilt of being a lone survivor weighed heavily on him. Joseph struggled in all areas of my life. Luckily, he was surrounded by a supportive wife, good friends, and effective wounded warrior programs that convinced him to seek and get the help he needed. The mental wounds proved far reaching and had a negative impact on his life. It was just as important to get help with the healing of those wounds as it was with the physical wounds.
Joseph felt a need to give back and help others as he was helped. Over the last few years he has volunteered his time as a guest speaker, mentor, and friend in an effort to convince others who are struggling to come forward and seek help. Joseph also supports, with time and money, multiple non-profit organizations that are involved in supporting service members.
Personally, he is currently residing in the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, North Carolina area with his wife, and is the proud father of 7 children who range from new born to college student. Joseph accepted medical retirement and is currently completing his double majors in Business and Accounting at Methodist University.