Zuleika Cruz Pereira was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where she was motivated to enlist at the age of 18 as a result of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Cruz served four years in the U.S. and then decided to continue her service in the U.S. Navy where she was deployed to Iraq for a third time. While working in an on-base warehouse, Zuleika accidentally was crushed by a 75 pound box and fell on the ground hitting her head on impact causing a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). Cruz was medivac from Iraq and sent to the states where she was diagnosed with a cervical, back, sciatica nerve injury. Also, she was diagnosed with chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from previous deployments with the U.S. Army. In 2010, Zuleika was medically retired from the U.S. Air Force and later that year successfully completed an Associates Degree in Sciences. Today, Zuleika is married to a soldier stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, where she copes with the symptoms of PTSD by training for the Warrior Games where she will be competing this year for the first time in cycling and track and field.
- The photography “negative” represents her motto that through each negative, a positive outcome will appear.
- The U.S. flag serves as a runway and represents her service in the U.S. Air Force.
- The gold emblem represents her quest to win a medal participating in the Special Olympics and Wounded Warrior Games.
- The service men saluting represent her past that will always be part of her.
- Tropical beaches, blue skies, and palm trees remind her of her home U.S. territory, Puerto Rico.
- Photography, going to the beach, writing poems, and competing help her find peace while dealing with her PTSD and other injuries.
- The logos on the shaft of the boot are of the U.S. Air Force and Cruz’s ranking symbol as Staff Sergeant.
- The grey, blue, and black colorway on the boot represents Cruz’s service in the U.S. Air Force.
- ”Always Ready” on the tongue label is a daily reminder for Cruz to stay strong in every situation.
- Stamped on the heel collar of the boot, ”Warrior” represents Cruz’s constant struggles with PTSD, other mental issues, and her physical injuries that she must overcome everyday.
- The fallen soldier memorial on the shaft is a dedication to Cruz’s fallen comrade that was killed during her second deployment in Iraq in 2005-2006.
- Embossed on the heel, ”Fighter” represents her daily personal battles.
- On the boot’s tongue shaft, “OIF I, OIF III, and OIF VI” are the operations and deployments Cruz served in Iraq in 2003, 2005-2006 and 2008.
Sean Gardner is a graphic design entrepreneur based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work includes logo design, prints, websites and ad campaigns for businesses in many diverse industries. Rebecca is currently a Illustration major at Kendall College of Art and Design, also based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.