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Eric Alva, 36, a native of San Antonio, Texas, was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old after attending community college. He graduated from Southwest High School in 1989.
Alva served in the Marine Corps for 13 years, and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. At the age of 22, he was deployed to Somali and later stationed in Japan and Iraq. He reenlisted following the Gulf War.
On March, 21, 2003, Marine Staff Sgt. Alva was traveling in Iraq in a convoy to Basra with his battalion – where he was in charge of 11 soldiers – when he stepped on a landmine, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it needed to be amputated. Alva received a Purple Heart and received a medical discharge from the military.
Alva, who was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show, various TV news shows and has appeared in People magazine and major newspapers.
Alva, who was a distance runner before his injury in Iraq, continues to run and ski with a prosthesis. Currently, he is studying for a degree in social work in San Antonio where he lives with his partner to continue, he says, to work for “social justice.”