Fort Worth, TX – A U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lost both legs in an explosion while serving in Iraq was sworn in as a Fort Worth police officer last week.
Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) Officer Zach Briseno, 35, was determined to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer.
It was a goal he had even before he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps straight out of high school, Officer Briseno said in a Facebook video posted by the FWPD on Dec. 11.
The Fort Worth native said he served two tours in Iraq – one from 2005 until 2006 and another in 2007.
Officer Briseno said Nov. 29, 2007 in Fallujah began “just like any other normal day, really.”
He was riding in the passenger seat of a Humvee that night, talking with his comrades about what movie they should watch when they got done with work, when their vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device (IED).
“It struck my vehicle right underneath the seat where I was sitting,” Officer Briseno explained. “This one happened to be command-detonated, so they were watching us from a nearby window, and as soon as my vehicle got over it, they detonated it.”
Officer Briseno recalled having felt pain and burning sensations in his lower body a moment later.
“I didn’t realize the severity of it,” he said. “Right away, my guys started putting tourniquets on me.”
He said he couldn’t see much of what was happening, but that he remembers hearing his fellow Marines as they rushed to save his life.
Simultaneously, they were also trying to watch their backs for enemy fire while they delivered emergency aid to Officer Briseno out on the roadway.
“I just remember telling them, ‘hey, tell my son I love him,’” he said. “I just wanted to make sure he was taken care of.”
Officer Briseno was treated in multiple locations in Iraq before he was transported to Germany and then on to Maryland.
“From what they said, my legs were pretty much already gone,” Officer Briseno said. “They were blown off in the explosion.”
He recalls having experienced “a rollercoaster of emotions” as he came to grips with the fact that he was a double-amputee.
“I would look down randomly…in my mind I feel my feet, they’re still there,” he explained, “but I look down and they’re not.”
Officer Briseno, the son of an Army veteran, said he was an FWPD Explorer as a teen, and that he knew he wanted to serve his country and come back to serve his community.
“I worked really hard to make that happen,” he said. “A lot of people would think, ‘he can’t do that. He has no legs.’”
But Officer Briseno was determined to beat the odds.
“Let me show you,” he decided. “I’m gonna find a way to show you how to do it.”
Officer Briseno, who now has two prosthetic legs, passed all of the same physical and academic tests as the rest of his fellow recruits, despite spending 10 days in the hospital due to COVID-19 during his training, according to KXAS.
He graduated from the 148th Police Academy Class on Nov. 11, WBNS reported.
In addition to being chosen by his instructors to receive a special award for being the most determined and dedicated recruit in his class, Officer Briseno’s classmates also selected him to be the recipient of the “Most Respected” award, according to KXAS.
His son, who is now 15, helped pin on his badge.
Officer Briseno has also had three more children since the explosion.
“That part of people saying it’s a disability? That’s all in your mind,” Officer Briseno told KXAS. “You’re psyching yourself out at that point if you say, ‘I have this problem.’ No. How bad do you want it? How hard do you want to work for it?”
Officer Briseno is the second double-amputee to become a law enforcement officer in the U.S., KXAS reported.
“You can do anything you want to do; you just have to put the work in,” he said in the FWPD video. “It may cost you some blood, sweat, and tears, but if you want it bad enough, you can do it.”