Christian Vega

Christian Vega

Serving in the U.S. Air Force
Christian Vega served for three years in Alaska employed as an Aerial Port Airmen—also known as a Port Dog—in the Passenger Service Center.

“I was busy. I won a scholarship to go to school in Alaska and I was passionate about fitness. When I first joined the Air Force I wanted to specialize in Pararescue in the special operations forces, but I was disqualified because I just learned to swim. I didn’t quit and the Air Force allowed me to do another job. That’s how I became a Port Dog, WOOF! I brought passengers to their airplanes, checked their boarding passes and luggage, and pretty much did what the TSA does at the airport. That was my job and I loved it!”

Leaning on Friends, Family and Faith
Vega suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015. He continued to serve for two more years and was medically separated from active duty after having a stroke.

“I had a lot of complications after my brain injuries. I am grateful for the support I had during that time. My mom is my official caregiver and has been there since day one. She came to Alaska to fly with me to Chicago. There were churches across the Chicagoland area, family members in the Texas area, my grandmother in Mexico City and my missionary pastor in Cambodia all praying for my recovery. In less than a month, the experimental drug my doctors recommended worked. My lung and liver healed miraculously.”

A New Way to Serve
“I’m back on my feet and pushing forward with my life. The gym is where my recovery starts and ends, so I am still passionate about being active. I am back in school and I joined the Mission Bible club at Oakton. I am taking my gen eds at Oakton with the goal of becoming an x-ray technician. I joined the Air Force because I wanted to serve my country. After my injury, I wanted to find a way to give back and I thought the best way would be to work in a hospital where I can help people who are sick. I’ve found strength in putting God first, being positive and working hard.”

Competing in the 2023 Invictus Games
Christian went to Germany to participate in the 2023 Invictus Games. The international Invictus Games were created by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex after he returned from deployment. The Invictus Games Foundation offers a recovery pathway for international wounded, injured and sick members of the armed forces.

“I read about the Invictus Games on the Wounded Warrior Project website. I remember when I asked someone about the games they told me it would be too hard to get in—only 10 people from each branch get to go. I thought I had come this far in my recovery, I might as well try. I actually didn’t qualify to participate because I am retired—the games are for active duty. The board had to vote to see if I was eligible. My name was the last name called for Team Air Force. I was so excited the board voted to let me compete and felt blessed beyond measure.”

Christian trained for the Invictus Games for almost a year. He went out to the track every day, he cycled at a local gym every other day and he never missed a day in the pool. Swimming, which had once held him back, was now his favorite activity.

“If you are in the Special Forces you have to be really good at swimming and I just didn’t make the cut. So, I was most excited to swim at the Invictus Games. The people I competed against were phenomenal. I remember noticing how hard a competitor swam and it reminded me that others have gone through stuff and just won’t quit. I was grateful for the reminder that no matter how impossible it seems never quit because victory could be right there.”

Two Invictus Games medals on a table.Christian won silver in the 100-meter race and gold in the 50-kilo cycling event. He also competed in other track, swimming, rowing and cycling events. But the most unforgettable part of the experience was sharing it with the people around him.

“I was able to bring my mom, dad and my two sisters to Germany. They have never been outside of the United States, so they were able to take a vacation and watch me compete. All the people I met were so kind. I also got to meet Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex while I was there. I collected pins and coins to trade with athletes from around the world. I’m really proud of that collection. The whole experience was truly amazing. More recently, I had the opportunity to meet President Biden and First Lady Biden as part of the Invictus Games recognition event at the White House. I want people to know this is not the end. This is an episode of your life, don’t let whatever you are going through stop you.”