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War-hardened vet: How accepting death made me a better soldier

The 2006 battle for Ramadi was one of the fiercest fights during the Iraq War.


Fear and grief were never an option for the soldiers, Marines, and Navy SEALs putting their lives on the line for control of the Al Anbar provincial capital. The fighting was intense; every troop had to remain focused and alert to stay alive.

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For Army rookie Perfecto Sanchez, that meant becoming a better soldier by coming to terms with his mortality.

"I fully, fully accepted that I was going to die," said Sanchez in the video below. "Once I came to terms with that, everything else was easy."

The only thing Sanchez could not accept was letting his platoon down.

Watch Sanchez recall the moment he became a better warrior when it counted most:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

It's tough to understand the physical, mental, and emotional stress combat places on our service members unless you've experienced it.

Sanchez's story reveals a glimpse into the high costs of war: trauma, severe injury, and death.

He is the embodiment of the Seven Core Army Values, and a reminder that it's not just mental and physical strength that troops need to survive war — it's the men and women who have their backs.