The Pinilla Family
Master Sgt. Mario Pinilla joined the U.S. Army immediately following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. On January 15, 2002, Pinilla became a cannon crewmember in the artillery field and then joined the ranks of the U.S. Army Special Forces (Special Forces), where he was deployed over the course of six years.
During his time in the Special Forces, Pinilla was wounded three separate times. The third and most severe injury occurred August 20, 2008 when Pinilla risked his life in combat to save a fellow soldier. Rushing to his team member’s aid, a bullet hit Pinilla’s spine, resulting in a pelvis fracture and a spinal cord fracture in which three vertebrae were shattered. Due to the severity of his wounds, Pinilla was evacuated from the battlefield and transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he began his slow recovery. Along with having severe PTSD, Pinilla was left paralyzed from the waist down and had to undergo colon reconstructive surgery.
Not long after learning how to walk and run again, Pinilla was deployed back to Columbia for seven months in 2009 and back to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. During his time in the U.S. Army, Pinilla was presented with numerous awards, including two Purple Hearts (with a third Purple Heart pending), a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. Despite his deep commitment to the military, Pinilla accredits his 20-month-old daughter, Sophia, for leading him into retirement. He is currently undergoing a medical retirement board in San Antonio.