The Tampa Bay Lightning honored retired Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the New York Rangers. Jernigan, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to his charity of choice, Southeastern Guide Dogs.
While serving his country in Iraq, Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan fell under attack when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb, causing him to suffer loss of vision in both eyes, a crushed cranium and severe trauma to both his right hand and left knee. Miraculously, Jernigan survived and rather than lamenting his own physical disabilities, used the difficult experience as way to inspire others. Throughout a lengthy rehabilitation process, which has included dozens of surgeries, Jernigan never lost focus of the commitment and courage necessary to create a life of meaning in the face of enormous challenges.
Painfully aware of his own struggle, Jernigan has used his experience to succeed in educating other American armed forces veterans about the use and assistance of guide dogs. His participation includes countless speaking engagements for veterans' groups, membership in the Blinded American Vets Foundation, as well as serving on the membership board of the MedVets Charitable Foundation. Through the latter organization, Jernigan has played a key role in providing free non-prescription preventative treatments for veterans who utilize the assistance of service dogs. The experience has proved invaluable in helping Jernigan confront the challenges he has faced to maximize the opportunities available to him, while also sharing them with others.