TAMPA — An Air Force officer critically injured when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter in Iraq has been selected to lead this month's Gasparilla parade of pirates as grand marshal.
Master Sgt. Christian "Mack" MacKenzie is assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition at MacDill Air Force Base, where he helps serve all of the Special Operations wounded, ill and injured.
MacKenzie, who enlisted in the Air Force in 1991, was badly wounded in 2004 while on a mission in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. An RPG hit the cockpit of his chopper and he suffered facial trauma, a brain injury and the destruction of an eye. He spent almost a year and a half in and out of the hospital enduring surgeries and rehab before returning to full active duty.
"When we announced Care Coalition would be Grand Marshal for the parade, we all agreed these folks were true heroes," said a statement from John Fontana, president of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the title sponsor of the Jan. 25 parade. "Clearly, MSgt MacKenzie exemplifies best what Care Coalition stands for. We're ecstatic he will be representing this terrific organization."