My name is Paul Kocina and I'm from Norwalk California which is just outside of Long Beach.
I enlisted in th United States Marine Corps right after I graduated from high school in 2006. In the Marine Corps I graduated from MCRD and went on from there to attend the school of infantry and LAV crewman's course. Afterwards I was stationed at Twenty Nine Palms with 3rd LAR Charlie Company.
For most of 2007 we conducted field training exercises preparing for our deployment to Iraq. I was deployed from September 2007 through April of 2008. Shortly after my return from Iraq I was involved in a motorcycle accident.
The date was August 24, 2008 and my life changed forever on that day. I crashed going into a left turn that resulted in a spinal cord injury as well as a compound fracture of my left femur, right tibia and fibia, the puncture of my left lung and a torn descending aorta. I spent the next eight weeks in the hospital and the next four years undergoing reconstructive surgery in an effort to save my legs.
After years of crippling pain and the resulting depression which led to substance abuse, I decided to have my left leg amputated. The surgery to remove my left leg above the knee was done at the VA medical center in La Jolla California on January 12, 2012. The amputation of my left leg caused it to become stronger however, I was now dealing with my right leg becoming weak and beginning to atrophy. That is when I made the decision to have the right leg amputated and again found myself at the La Jolla VA for my second amputation in January of 2016.
At that time, I felt like having my second left amputated would get rid of all the pain and problems I had been experiencing and make life easier. In some ways it did but little did I know, the real pain and problems were about to begin.
Although it was a struggle to learn to walk again my real battle was with substance abuse and depression. It was time to reach out once again for help and it was only after I did so that life began to become enjoyable again.
Today at 29 years old, I am glad to say I am living a clean and happy life! Adjusting to injuries hasn't been easy or fun but I have found that working out has given me daily motivation. I have been training at the W for nearly four years now and I continue to grow physically, mentally as well as spiritually. Life is a journey.
Finish Strong is proud to sponsor Paul and others like him. Please help Finish Strong support Paul Kocina as well as our 2016 recipient, Davin Burns