You know you’re good at what you do when there are people who want you to stop doing it badly enough to put a bounty on your head. That’s what Iraqi insurgents did to Jerry Majetich when he served as an Army psychological-operations specialist in and around Baghdad.
“My job was talking to people, building goodwill,” Jerry said, “and I absolutely loved it. It taught me how much you can accomplish when you treat people like people. In the process of creating goodwill, you see the same people over and over again, and eventually, they start talking back, providing a lot of information. We got information that closed down a couple of improvised explosive device (IED) plants and two propaganda centers. So we were quite successful.” That didn’t sit well with the enemy.
“Two weeks before I was injured, I heard there was a bounty on my head because I was good at what I did,” Jerry said. “The day I was injured, it was during a cordon and search of South Baghdad. So rather than traveling at our usual 60 miles per hour, we were traveling at 5 or 6 mph, and they waited for me with an IED. There were eight insurgents, and three of them had pictures of me and my vehicles on them.”
The attack left Jerry with burns over his entire face and scalp as well as 37 percent of his body. He sacrificed both ears, his nose, and fingers on both hands. During a firefight that followed the IED blast, bullets found his shoulder and leg. His spine was fractured in three places. And he says he’d do it all again.
“I’m a pretty simple guy,” he says. “I love my family. I love my country. I served my country, and I wish I could have done it again.”
It’s a sentiment that runs in the family. Jerry’s mother served as an Army nurse during the Korean conflict. Five older brothers also served in the Army. To buck the family tradition, though, Jerry initially enlisted in the Marines, which allowed him to see much of the world. He was deployed aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. Eventually, he separated from the Marines and moved on to the Army because it offered opportunities to reach more of his personal goals.
And those goals have always involved family. “One of my proudest accomplishments in life is that I’m a good father,” Jerry says. “I’ve got three happy, healthy children. We have a great relationship. We love to spend time together, and they’re doing well for themselves. They are strong, smart, happy children.”
Jerry has also found a rewarding career as a stockbroker, where his company provides training and employment opportunities for other injured veterans. “It’s my whole reason for taking my job,” he says. “When I first decided I was too young to retire and I could go back to work, I started looking for jobs. But as much as people like to deny it, my physical appearance was a factor when I interviewed for jobs.”
Jerry is a big proponent of both WWP’s TRACK™ program – the first education center in the nation designed specifically for Wounded Warriors – and Warriors to Work™, which helps Wounded Warriors transition back into the civilian workforce by providing career counseling services and job placement assistance.
“With the TRACK program, WWP is starting to prepare people for the future,” Jerry says, noting one of his biggest post-injury concerns was his own future. “With TRACK, and Warriors to Work, they’re progressing in the right direction to prepare people for their future, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
After 62 surgeries, if Jerry looks back, it’s only to remember those who helped him on his journey. “I’ve been through a lot,” he says, “and I’m still kicking. I’m not going to give up. I never will. The minute you sit down and stay down, you may as well just throw in your cards, because you’re done.
“I’ve got children who look up to me, and I want to make sure they have the opportunities they deserve. Seeing good people who follow behind me, they can look to me and say, ‘Hey, you did it.’ I’ve had injuries that made things difficult, but I still succeed. I’m doing well at what I do, and I’m going to continue doing it. I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve my brothers and sisters to show them there’s more life to live.”