DENVER (KDVR) — Ralph DeQuebec remembers the moment well. The Denver Marine was deployed in Afghanistan, serving as a bomb disposal technician, when he stumbled upon something suspicious.
“I was about to get on the radio to say ‘hey something doesn’t feel right,’” DeQuebec said. “And as I’m looking up, I see a guy walking towards me and I put my hand out and I say ‘hey stop,’ but before I can even get to the ‘P’ he had stepped on it, and I went flying through the air.”
DeQuebec was dragged to safety by his teammates and eventually transported to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C.
He lost both his legs above the knee in the explosion.
“About 30 days had passed, and it wasn’t until I woke up at Walter Reed that I realized what had happened,” he said. “Obviously there was a lot of mental anguish I had to go through, and through the recovery process I had to reidentify myself and create who I wanted to be all over again.”
The former college athlete quickly turned to sports, and begrudgingly tried sled hockey following pressure from a friend.
“It wasn’t until I got involved in sled hockey, that I kind of felt where my next home was going to be,” he said. DeQuebec quickly went all in, joining a team in D.C., and ultimately making his way onto the United States Paralympic Team.
He’s gotten support from the Semper Fi America’s Fund, which has helped pay for equipment, training, and even travel for his family.
“They took a lot of that burden off me, so I can just focus on the hockey,” he said.
This week, he’ll go for his second straight gold medal in Beijing.
“It’s a big 180 from waking up in a hospital bed and not knowing what your next purpose in life is going to be, to watching the American flag be raised, and the national anthem being played, with a gold medal around your neck,” he said. “It’s extremely humbling.”