During Black History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Centra “Cece” Mazyck, who became a Paralympian following a parachute accident.
Centra “Cece” Mazyck grew up in a military family. Her mother, uncles, and brother all served in the military. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina. She lived in New York City while her mother was stationed there, then moved back to St. Stephan, South Carolina, where she attended high school.
In 1994, she attended Bauder Fashion College in Atlanta, Georgia, and was passionate about the fashion industry. One year after attending college, she joined the Army Reserve. In August she attended basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. There, she completed training as a human resource manager. She returned to Bauder Fashion College for one more year and graduated with an associate’s degree to pursue becoming a fashion stylist.
In 1997, Mazyck transitioned into active duty with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mazyck enjoyed the camaraderie of the Army and re-enlisted. After eight years of service, she achieved the rank of sergeant first class.
While jumping out of the C-130 Hercules aircraft, she and another jumper became entangled in their parachutes at a high altitude and were unable to weave out in time. Upon landing, she burst her L1 and L2 vertebrae, becoming paralyzed from the waist down. After undergoing rehabilitation and physical therapy, she was released from the hospital in 2004.
Mazyck moved back to Columbia and returned to school. She graduated in 2010 with a sociology degree from the University of South Carolina.
Mazyck is a Paralympian. In 2005, she competed in the first National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Later, after intense training, she competed in the javelin competition at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. In 2013, she earned a bronze medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships in France.
Mazyck shares her inspiring story around the world as a motivational speaker. She is also an ambassador for the Disabled American Veterans and earned the DAV Freedom Award.
“You have to believe in yourself, not in what someone tells you,” Mazyck said in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine.
Thank you for your service!
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Writer: Hannah Nelson
Fact checker: Vivian Hurney