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Graduating senior rises from the ashes of war

Jorge Pozo has daily reminders of his time serving as a soldier in Afghanistan and the severe injuries — both physical and mental — he incurred while in combat. But those reminders serve as his motivation to live life to the fullest.

Pozo is a biology major who will graduate on Friday with the other members of Northeastern’s Class of 2010. Though he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and admits the effects of war sometimes cause heightened fears back home, Pozo uses his military experience in striving to stay positive every day, further his studies, and inspire his classmates.

“I have always been the type of person who wants to move forward in my life,” Pozo says.

In his next forward move, Pozo will begin a graduate program in biotechnology at Harvard University this fall, where he will further his research on veterans with traumatic brain injury. Pozo got a taste of research while at Northeastern, in a co-op position working with faculty at Harvard.

This positive turn seems far removed from the day —May 19, 2006 — when Pozo’s life dramatically changed. Stationed in Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban, Pozo was engaged in a firefight, and as he was trying to pull an injured comrade to safety, a rocket propelled grenade exploded several yards away. He was thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious after hitting his head. He suffered a broken leg that required surgery in Kuwait and Germany, and again when he returned to the United States. His injuries were further complicated by a motorcycle accident in 2008.

Pozo ultimately landed at Northeastern University to continue the studies he began in Florida before being deployed by the military.

The U.S. Army has recognized Pozo with numerous honors, including the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the ROTC Army Achievement Award. But Pozo has insisted using his experiences to inspire others. At Northeastern, he has delivered motivational speeches to fellow students, telling his story and urging them to make the most of their cooperative education experiences.

“I still can’t believe I’m graduating after everything that’s happened,” he says with a smile.

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