By Daena Moore
Wherever retired Master Sgt. Cedric King found himself serving throughout his 20-year career in the U.S. Army, the USO stood by his side:
From providing him a touch of home in Fort Benning, Georgia, as a young soldier; to giving him a place to sleep at an airport center on his way to Germany; to giving him a place to call home from while in Afghanistan; to providing him care packages in Iraq; to being there in Bethesda during his recovery as a double-amputee; to serving as the venue for his retirement ceremony – the USO went wherever he went.
“You guys have done so much for me and my family,” King said. “The USO is there making sure that we have everything we need.”
But it is because of warriors like King that the USO continues to serve those who serve.
In Pursuit of a Life of Service
Cedric King grew up an only child in a single-parent home in a small community in North Carolina. In 1995, he joined the military at the age of 17.
After changing his focus from aviation to infantry, Cedric graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School. Both of his grandfathers served in World War II and King was proud to be part of that lineage of service.
“The military was one of those places where if you could do these four things consistently, you would always rise to the top. And those four things were: be at the right place, right time, right uniform, right attitude,” King said.
In the Army, King found he could excel and carve his own path forward. He did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and says serving in combat is one of the greatest things that someone can do.
“I’m so thankful that I got a chance to serve my country in that capacity,” King said.
The Day that Changed Everything
While there was always the anxiety that something could happen when King was away from home, his wife, Khieda, felt that leading up to her husband’s third — and final — deployment was different. Unfortunately, she was right.
On July 25, 2012, King’s platoon conducted a reconnaissance in an Afghan village. After falling under machine gun fire, he stepped on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (IED). He awoke eight days later in the United States.
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King had sustained disfigurement on his right hand, and both of his legs were amputated.
“That was where everything changed,“ King said. "That was the moment where my life took a turn. It really did. And it was tough.”
King admits there was a small moment in time where he felt like his life was over. He says there are so many veterans out there thinking the same thing, but stresses now that there is always hope.
After King lost his legs in combat, he gave himself over to the principles that he had to live by every day in the military. King said his faith and training took over, and he began to see the possibilities in life rather than the negatives.
“So, when this injury happened, it was just like, okay, it’s just another tough day in the Army,” King said. “Yes, it’s bigger than that. But when it all boils down in the end, it’s just another tough day in the Army.”
King recovered at a hospital for three years, where he finished his college degree and made a lot of partnerships.
“With the people that I had met [while in recovery] … I had already set up opportunities for [myself] to have a wonderful life,” he said.
Because of that, he believes that it was a little bit easier for him to have a solid transition.
A New Chapter in Life
Along the road to recovery, King remained admirably busy and engaged with his community.
He was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart, wrote a book called, “The Making Point” and ran numerous triathlons and marathons. In fact, 21 months after losing both his legs, he completed his first of many Boston Marathons.
King would go on to receive his final Army promotion at the White House with one of his grandfathers — who served as an inspiration for him to serve our country — right by his side.
After retiring, King felt he not only needed to be the one creating opportunities in his own life, but also in the lives of his comrades. Now based in Atlanta, he is committed to veteran wellness.
King is also a USO supporter and has participated in events with USO of North Carolina.
“Any time when the USO called upon me, it was my duty to make sure that I give back because you guys give so much to me,” he said.
Looking back on his career, King says that joining the military was still one of the greatest gifts he could have given himself. He also believes his injury could be somebody’s gift, and that his life-altering circumstances can have purpose and meaning for others.
“Everything that you lost, you can still continue to move forward with and win,” he said. “You just must construct your mind to think about it differently, and then you must make a decision that you’re not going to look back at what was. Yesterday was great, but I could make tomorrow even better.”
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