11 Dec 2010

Noe Santos: Salon Libby Meets a Hero

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Noe Cuts His Hair for Locks of LoveIn the midst of the holiday season’s demands, it’s important to remember the reason we celebrate. And nothing can help us focus on the true meaning of life faster than meeting a hero. Last week, we met a true hero at Salon Libby, Noe Santos. Noe, an Army veteran, was handicapped in an Iraqi firefight but his giving spirit continues: he arrived to cut his 12 inches of hair to donate to Locks of Love (It took him two years to grow it.) This Christmas, we say thank you to Noe and to all those serving our county and each other. Below is Noe’s story of true American heroism. Enjoy.

ARMY STRONG

The life of a retired Army Sergeant

By Stefany Santos

          There are some people who just have a natural feeling of positivity. This feeling fills any room Noe Santos Jr. is in. With an exuberant personality, he walks into the room in his crutches, like he has since 2005, without breaking a sweat.
          “You should be paying me [for doing this interview],” are the first words to come out of Santos’ mouth when he greets me. He thinks he’s a comedian. Santos is a firm believer that “smiles are contagious”. You can find Santos flashing a smile from ear to ear and spreading joy to anyone he holds a conversation with.
At twenty-six years of age, Santos is a retired United States Army Sergeant. People are amazed at this fact. “How can someone so young already be retired from the military?” is the usual question asked.

          In 2005, Santos was stationed in Camp Taji, Iraq. He was Lead Gunner for the Brigade Command, Sergeant Major, and the Colonel’s Personal Security Team. Santos was trained in the Army as a mechanic, but volunteered for the dangerous job as lead machine-gunner on convoy runs, dodging roadside bombs and snipers while operating out of Camp Taji with the 3rd Infantry Division.
          At the tender age of twenty years old, Santos was leading a convoy of twelve to twenty people through war zones daily.
          On September 6th, 2005, Santos was riding on his humvee, traveling from Camp Taji to Baghdad, Iraq. As they approached an intersection, his convoy was attacked by a bomb triggered by a laser, flipping his vehicle five times and killing two passengers instantly. Before he lost consciousness, he remembers seeing that his leg was severely wounded.
          Santos was immediately transferred to the closest hospital in Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Santos lost his left leg at the hip. He was in a coma for 15 days.
The doctors feared he had suffered brain damage because when he finally woke up he couldn’t remember his phone number or home address. Santos was going to be transferred to a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) treatment center in Richmond, Virginia. Days before, however, he proved the doctors wrong. A die hard New York Yankees fan, Santos recited the entire Yankees’ lineup to his therapist, a Boston Red Sox fan, after an argument.  His recall convinced his therapist that additional therapy for TBI would not be necessary.
          From there it took three years of intense rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy, for Santos to be ready to lead a normal life again. Santos had to relearn how to walk. Due to the extent of his injury, a prosthetic was never comfortable enough for him. He has had numerous prosthetics made to fit him but he prefers to get around in his crutches.
          Santos gets the usual head turns when he walks anywhere. People are astonished by what they see; not realizing the effect it might have on him. However, Santos does not let the glares keep him down; although they are annoying and imprudent.
          In fact, Santos does not let anything keep him down. In May 2010, he participated in the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Central Park with his siblings and cousins in support of his father who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. The walk was five miles long and Santos completed the walk in his crutches. With sore arms and a lot of pain the next day, Santos had no regrets.
          Born on October 17th, 1984 in the Dominican Republic, Santos is the eldest son of Rosmery and Noe Santos. In 1995, Santos immigrated with his parents and two siblings to the United States “like all immigrants looking for a better life.”
         Roaming the streets of Ridgewood, Queens Santos spoke not a word of English. This changed by the time Santos graduated Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens in 2002.
          Santos joined the Army at the young age of 17, not long after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. His reasoning: “I was looking to better myself, find something to belong to. 9-11 had just happened. Freedom isn’t free and someone has to do the dirty work.”

          In September 2009, Santos enrolled in The City University of New York: Kingsborough Community College pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts because he was unsure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
          In the beginning of 2010, he decided it was time to look for a major that he would enjoy and so Santos began looking at schools with majors that had anything to do with his passion, music. One school which caught Santos’ eye was Full Sail University in Florida. It promised an accelerated degree and the latest technology.

          In September of 2010, Santos moved to Winter Park, Florida where he now attends Full Sail University pursuing a career in Music Production and Engineering/Recording Arts. When he graduates, he plans to “make music that will heal people, soothe them.”

One Response to “Noe Santos: Salon Libby Meets a Hero”

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