Retired Master Sgt. Joseph Deslauriers speaks to 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airmen March 1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Deslauriers, a former Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technician, was the guest speaker during the squadron’s monthly professional development meeting. He told the Airmen his harrowing Air Force story and the resiliency it took to overcome the physical and emotional obstacles put into his life as a result of an improvised explosive device blast in 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
A local and national military hero stopped by Luke’s Place here March 1 to tell his story and share some insights on resiliency with Eglin’s Airmen.
Retired Master Sgt. Joseph Deslauriers was the guest speaker for the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s monthly professional development group meeting. Deslauriers, a highly decorated Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technician, shared his story of resiliency and recovery after losing both legs and an arm during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
He was invited to speak by Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Morgan, 96th LRS, and her spouse, Chief Master Sgt. Alex Morgan, 96th Civil Engineer Squadron. They have known Deslauriers since before his accident through the EOD community and consider him a family friend for 17 years.
Chief Morgan, who was also deployed at the time of the incident, shared his emotional story of finding out what happened to his friend, before introducing Deslauriers.
“I’m so glad he is still with us and proud to be able to introduce my friend to you today,” said the chief.
Deslauriers, who moves with the help of a weight-balanced, two-wheeled chair, began saying he’s heard a few stories about how friends and fellow Airmen learned about him. He also spoke about the bracelet he wears on his right wrist. The bracelet has the 20 names of everyone involved with saving his life.
Deslauriers was conducting a post-blast investigation after three improvised explosive devices exploded in his area. He stepped on a pressure plate IED in an already cleared area on the way back to his vehicle.
“September 23, 2011 changed my life for the rest of my life,” said Deslauriers, who was on his fourth combat deployment in five years when he was injured.
He said he remembers waking up after the explosion and when the guys put on his tourniquets.
“The tourniquets hurt more than the injuries,” said Deslauriers, who earned a Silver Star and other medals for his efforts that day.
He passed out on the medical evacuation helicopter and woke up four days later in Washington D.C.
“You are in such an altered state, it is hard to grasp at first what really just happened,” he said. “You have this one reality you are on and then boom. Now, you enter this alternate reality that’s been created and that’s your new life.”
He said those few days of adjusting to the new reality was extremely difficult and trying, but it made him stronger than he could have ever imagined being.
Deslauriers left the hospital two months later with a lot of recovery to come. He and his wife welcomed their first child only weeks after.
“I live for my family,” he said. “Having a child gives me a reason to keep going every day.”
He closed by thanking the Airmen in the room for letting him be there back among them.
“I love telling my story to you because it reminds me of being in the Air Force and that brotherhood I had,” said Deslauriers, who first told his story publicly to gymnasium of full of local-area elementary school children in 2012.
After his remarks to the LRS Airmen, the master sergeant was asked about regrets, what-ifs and missed opportunities due to his injuries and how he overcomes those feelings.
“I used to think about what it would be like to have legs and run around with my kids,” said Deslauriers. “I don’t do that anymore. I learned I can’t dwell on the past because it will ruin my future. You have to accept who you are for what you are. I enjoy who I am today and learned to let those feelings go because it will take you down a dark path.”
He encouraged anyone dealing with feelings like that to not be afraid to speak up and seek help.
The 96th LRS professional development group meets monthly. For more information about the group, call 882-4595.