Story by Lance Cpl. Chelsea Flowers, CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Sgt. Maj. Raymond Mackey has been in the Marine Corps for 29 years but will be the first to tell you he can still hang with even the youngest Marines on the basketball court. As he quickly maneuvers his wheelchair by other players to get open for a pass, puts up shots in the key and shouts directions to others on his team, it is easy to see that Mackey is a natural-born leader – as an athlete, a Marine and a Wounded Warrior. For the past two years, Mackey has mentored and inspired other injured Marines he met while at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. It is these Marines who are now playing and competing alongside Mackey because of his gentle prodding and unwavering example. With every step he takes on his prosthetic legs and every push of the wheels on his wheelchair, Mackey is showing them what it means to be a Wounded Warrior.
While deployed to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, in 2009 Mackey’s unit came under fire while on patrol. While returning fire and moving for cover through a ditch, the Marine directly in front of Mackey stepped on the trigger mechanism of an improvised explosive device, causing it to detonate. The IED explosion funneled in the ditch, spreading out instead of up, and hit Mackey harder than the Marines around him. Most of the Marines suffered class four concussions and shrapnel wounds. Mackey lost both of his legs. But this setback did not change Mackey’s desire to lead and mentor Marines. This same desire prompted Mackey to compete with more than 300 other wounded Marines, veterans and allies in the 2012 Marine Corps Trials.
Pictured: Sgt. Maj. Raymond Mackey lost both of his legs in an improvised explosive device blast in 2009. Now Mackey is stepping up to inspire and mentor other wounded Marines at the 2012 Marine Corps Trials and wherever else life may take them. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)