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He Survived Everything From Being Wounded In Afghanistan To Cancer; Now, Ventura County Man Is Getting A College Degree

(CSUCI photo)
Cal State Channel Islands graduate Alexander Pimentel is celebrating getting his degree at a drive-through campus ceremony May 22

Remarkable man overcomes huge obstacles to pursue career in business

This is a big week for college graduations on the Central and South Coasts. Every graduate has their own, unique story about their path to a diploma.

But, perhaps none is as incredible as that of soon to be Cal State Channel Islands graduate Alexander Pimentel.

He was stabbed and shot as a teen, critically wounded by a bomb blast during one of three tours in the Army in Afghanistan, and diagnosed with cancer years later. Oh, and by the way, he earned his degree at CSUCI while raising three kids as a single parent.

Pimentel grew up in Oxnard. He dropped out of Hueneme High School. He wasn’t in a gang, but says one day he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pimentel says he was cornered by eight gang members, beaten, stabbled multiple times in the arm and neck, and then shot.

Incredibly, he survived and recovered.

A year later, Pimentel got some startling news from his girlfriend. She was pregnant. He says the news was a life changer. He had been working at a tire shop, but he decided that he needed to get serious about his life and a career so he could be a good father. The Oxnard man had dropped out of high school, but he went back and got his GED, and then enrolled at Oxnard College.

While in school, his life took another big twist. He met an Army recruiter, and enlisted. He was part of an Airborne unit. It was near the end of his second 15 month tour of duty in Afghanistan that disaster hit. Pimentel was leading a patrol back to base when he was targeted by an IED blast.

He was thrown more than 25 feet away, and nearly killed by his multiple injuries. The soldier was showered with shrapnel, some of which is still in his body.

(Photo courtesy Alexander Pimentel)
Alexander Pimentel during one of his three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He almost died after being seriously wounded by a bomb blast during his second tour.

It took him a year to recover, but he convinced his superiors to let him to a third tour, telling them that his experience from two tours would help him save the lives of other soliders.

He made it home safe from his third tour, only to face a new threat. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Pimentel says it was the scariest threat he had ever faces. he says he knew how to defend himself about people trying to kill him, but when it was his own body, he felt helpless. Fortunately, his cancer surgery was successful, and he’s now cancer free.

And, while he’s not superstitious, you can’t blame him if he was. The stabbing and shooting when he was a teen, the IED bombing in Afghanistan, and, his cancer diagnosis all occurred on Friday the 13ths. He jokes that when there's a friday the 13th on the calendar, he stays home and orders Uber Eats.

There’s one more complication. After getting divorced in 2017, he got full custody of his three kids, who are now 9, 13, and 16. Still, he returned to school, first getting his degree from Oxnard College, and then going on to Cal State Channel Islands, earning his degree in business.

Pimentel isn’t done. In less than two weeks, he’ll start at Villanova, using the Pennsylvania university’s online program. The 41-year OLD Oxnard man’s end goal is an MBA from USC’s Marshall School of Business, and a career managing supply logistics.

Pimentel’s life is a story of drive and determination, and while he hasn’t reached his final goal yet, getting his degree this weekend is a major milestone to celebrate.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.