Keshena, Wis. (WFRV) – Forrest Perez grew up on the Menominee Indian Reservation. After graduating from Menominee High School, he wasn’t quite sure what his path would be.
“I knew I was too immature to go to college. I had the grades but I figured I would just drink. I wanted to get more experience in life, so I joined the Army,” said Perez.
With a goal in mind but coincidentally afraid of heights at the time, Perez joined the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in 2003.
“I loved it. It was more fast-paced than anywhere else. I loved being there because they got stuff done. I don’t like sitting down and being idle, I like doing stuff constantly,” Perez recalled.
Perez was deployed to Korea and Iraq, and spent 8 years at Fort Bragg with the Airborne Division.
After his deployments, Perez found himself in a dark place not knowing how to cope after active duty.
“I started going on a downward spiral with alcohol and my relationships. So, I decided to get myself back on track,” said Perez.
It was 2012, when Perez was still stationed at Fort Bragg that his life changed forever; He was hit by a drunk driver.
“I was crossing the street, and an intoxicated driver hit me and left me for dead,” Perez said.
Perez was left with traumatic brain injuries and honorably discharged from the Army.
It took six months for him to regain movement in his legs, learn to speak again; But he never gave up.
“I got home here (to Menominee) and I really didn’t want to sit for the rest of my life in my wheelchair. So I enrolled at the local college,” Perez said.
Perez moved back home to Menominee. He was studying to be a paralegal at the College of Menominee Nation, and had just enrolled at Fox Valley Tech.
Forrest’s mother Lynelle Perez said Forrest was just getting back to a somewhat normal life, when everything changed again.
“We love where we live in the woods and we have the fishing and the swimming and the ice fishing and the hunting. That’s what Forrest was doing, and then the second accident happened,” Lynelle said.
The unthinkable happened again; Forrest and his father Derrick Perez Sr. were struck by a drunk driver after a hunting trip in Menominee 2015, killing his father.
Forrest suffered a broken femur. But again, he never gave up.
“He’s just a determined person you know, he just never let life get him down. He’s always trying to help somebody if he can and he does the best he can with what he’s got,” said Lynelle. “You would think having those accidents would have made him soured on life but it hasn’t, he’s just taking a different way about it,” she said.
Forrest finished his paralegal degree and plans to apply to be a legal clerk with the Menominee court system once the pandemic is over.
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