Double-amputee Iraq war veteran fulfills dream of becoming a cop: ‘Wanted it since I was a kid’

FORT WORTH, TX – Zach Briseno was one of 24 graduates of the police academy Class 148. Last Friday, he stood alongside his fellow graduates and was sworn in as an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department. 

“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid,” he told NBC5.

So, what makes him unique to the other 23 people standing next to him?

Briseno was injured in Iraq in 2007, where he was serving as a Marine. It was his second tour of duty. The vehicle he was riding in hit a roadside bomb. He lost both of his legs below the knees in that attack. He thought he was going to die on the side of that road, and asked his fellow Marines to get a message back to his then two-year-old son: 

“I just remember telling them, ‘Hey, tell my son I love him,’ because he was the only child I had.”

The now 35-year-old did survive, receiving the Purple Heart awarded by President George W. Bush. 

But, without his legs, how could he pursue his dream of becoming a Fort Worth police officer? 

 
As he progressed through his recovery process, he received prosthetic legs. This restored his belief that he could fulfill that dream. He said:

“A lot of people would maybe think, ‘He can’t do that, he has no legs. Let me show you. I’m going to find a way to show you how to do it.”

Last Friday, he showed everyone just how it is possible. Briseno became the second double amputee in the nation to become a commissioned law enforcement officer. He joins Matias Ferreira, a fellow Marine who lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2011. Officer Ferreira joined the Suffolk County (NY) Police Department in March 2017. 

Ferreira said at the time:

“I’m just really eager and excited to prove myself to my colleagues in my new job, my new career, that I’m capable of doing the job just as well as somebody with both legs.

“I don’t think the prosthetics hinder me in any way.”

Briseno, who was 5′ 7″ tall on the day of his injuries, now measures 6′ 1″. But he stands even taller than the tape measures. He said:

“That part of people saying it’s a disability, that’s all in your mind. You’re psyching yourself out at that point if you say, ‘I have this problem.’

“No. How bad do you want it? How hard do you want to work for it?”

Officer Briseno had to overcome another challenge while going through the academy. He contracted COVID and spent ten days in the hospital. Like every other obstacle he encounters, he beat that challenge and returned to training. 

His commitment to seeing his dream come to fruition did not go unnoticed by his instructors or his fellow recruits. Each academy class has two awards that are given at the end of the cycle.

The Cadre awards one honor to the most dedicated recruit. Fellow students award another honor for the most respected. Briseno took both home.

While those awards were well-deserved, it was something else that occurred at the graduation that made it memorable for the new officer. His wife and four children were on-hand to pin him. The two-year-old, who he once thought he would never see again, is now 15 years old and helped with the pinning.  

Additionally, one of his Marine Corps friends who was with him the night of the attack flew in for the ceremony, capping off an emotional day for him and his family. 

He will soon begin patrolling in the northwest part of Fort Worth.

He said the lesson he hopes everyone learns from his experiences is:

“Don’t give up. Leave the past in the past and keep moving forward. Our time tomorrow isn’t always promised. You’ve got to make the best of today.”

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LET Unity

Marine Veteran Amputee Realizes Dream of Becoming a Police Officer

June 22, 2017

OCEANSIDE, CA – Against enormous odds, a Marine veteran amputee is about to realize his dream of becoming a police officer.

Chris Lawrence is that man. He’s been hired by the Chula Vista Police Department in Southern California. His journey has been long and painful, reported Fox 5 San Diego.

marine veteran amputee

Lawrence served in the Marine Corps. At 20 years of age, he found himself in Iraq serving with fellow Marines. An improvised explosive device was set off as he crossed a bridge, critically damaging his feet and left arm.

Sadly, it would be months before he started walking again. Yet when he did, his right leg wasn’t responding and was ultimately amputated.

“I always looked up to them and thought about becoming an officer after I got out of the Marine Corps, that’s something I would do,” Lawrence said.

Years later, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department initially offered him a job opportunity. However, they ultimately rejected Lawrence because of his physical limitations.

“I put so much work and time. … trained every day. I ran every day,” Lawrence said.

marine veteran amputee

Marine Veteran Amputee Graduates Police Academy

Another Marine veteran suggested Lawrence try the police academy at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, where instructors gave him an opportunity.

Eleven months later, he graduated and will be sworn in Friday morning.

“I wouldn’t have ever guessed nine, 10 years ago when I got injured that I would be achieving this,” Lawrence said. “I want to have the impact on the community that those officers had on me when I was younger and I want to return every favor I’ve gotten and make sure that I can do everything I can to help the citizens of Chula Vista.”

Lawrence joins fellow Marine amputee-turned-police-officer, Matias Ferreira, who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy earlier this year. Incredibly, Ferreira is a double amputee, losing both legs during combat in Afghanistan. He now works for the Suffolk County Police Department in New York.

Congratulations Officer Lawrence on your accomplishment. We wish you all the best as you begin your new endeavor.

 
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Author: Mitch McKinley

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