NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Staff Sgt. Alex Jauregui spent Saturday morning sitting in a duck blind near North Platte.
While that's a common autumn activity in west-central Nebraska, it was the first time for Jauregui, 28, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is recovering from stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in April.
The native Californian has spent the past nine years stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., as an Airborne Infantry squad leader for the 82nd Airborne, 4th Brigade, 2nd Battalion.
In 2007, the 1074th Nebraska National Guard from North Platte was deployed to Al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq, where Jauregui was also stationed as a mechanic. On Feb. 4, 2007, a gun truck driven by the 1074th hit an IED and burst into flames, killing Sgt. Randy Matheny of McCook.
Jauregui's commander saw the explosion and they tried to help those in the vehicle. Jauregui pulled Matheny from the vehicle, but it was too late.
Shortly after, Matheny's mother, Jan Collins, wrote to Jauregui, thanking him for pulling her son from the truck.
“I was the reason she was able to kiss her son one last time,” Jauregui said. “The last five years, I've been trying to meet (Matheny's) family. ”
However, Jauregui, who has 42 months of combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan, stepped on an IED in Kandahar province in Afghanistan in April. Jauregui lost both his legs from the knees down and several fingers on his left hand. Since then he's been recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He said he's got six months to a year of recovery left.
Last week the Veterans Airlift Command flew Jauregui to Nebraska so he could reconnect with members of the 1074th and meet with Matheny's family in McCook.
“He's an amazing kid and a great inspiration for all of us,” Master Sgt. Dean Reicks of North Platte said. Reicks was a truck master during the 1074th's deployment to Iraq in 2007.
Reicks, along with Mark Schafer and several other North Platte hunters, offered Jauregui the chance to duck hunt on the lakes east of North Platte on Saturday.
Just three shots in, Jauregui shot his first duck.
“Mark said they would give me a one-Mississippi lead,” Jauregui said. “It was probably a 30-second lead.”