October 10, 2010
On our trek into the mountain, I have partnered with Katherine Raggazino, better known as Rizzo, as my guide. A big part of any team is the pure excitement and joy that one person can bring to everyone. On that count, Rizzo has given all of us an extra boost of energy.
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Katherine graduated from Northeast High School in 1995 and joined the Marines eighteen months later. Serving twelve and a half years, her primary duty was in Administration, but definitely not limited to that field. Calling herself “an outside of the box thinker,” she was always ready to take on new challenges. This attitude lead her to becoming a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, proficient in both lethal and non-lethal tactics, who trained and deployed with Special Operation Capable Units. Katherine also trained to become a Camp Pendleton Range Inspector.
During her military service, Katherine was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. In 2004 while in Iraq, Katherine sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that dramatically affected her life. Though she did her best to overcome both cognitive and physical impairments, they eventually proved to be serious and long lasting.
In December 2007, Katherine was transferred to Wound Warrior Battalion West, located at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. At Balboa Hospital, she was placed in the Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center (C5) to help her with the brain injury and post traumatic stress. The C5 program is designed to take soldiers through successive stages of treatment, such as reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation, to a level of functioning. The goal of C5 is to allow patients to return to full active duty or help them transition successfully to civilian life and employment.
For a year and a half, Katherine lived on hospital grounds with injured Marines and other service members as she received daily treatment In June of 2009, she was Honorably Discharged and Medically Retired from the Marines. Currently, she is an inpatient at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, as part of the Trauma Recovery Program. Talking about her treatment, she says, “I now understand what is meant when it is said: ‘Through disabilities, there are possibilities.’”
Katherine admits, “I have difficulties with both long term and short term memory. And PTSD has caused me to become very distant to loved ones and friends. Writing my biography, although brief, was extremely hard for me to recall and share openly. This has taken me weeks to write due to avoidance, fear and impaired communication skills. Now, for the first time in years, I am allowing people into my very, very private world. This is yet another step towards the road to recovery.”
Summing up her past, “Whether working in a support role or being the one supported I was very motivated, I wore my uniform with pride and with honor everyday! I was committed to each mission at hand.” And looking to the future, Katherine says, “I am keeping a positive outlook and can’t wait to meet the rest of the Team in Colorado in August! I am truly honored and excited to be included in this monumental expedition.”