Serving my country is all I ever really wanted to do. It runs in my blood from my father to my uncles. My wife Brianna and I pray that one day our children will find the same passion.
My parents, James Mast & Timoxena Trujillo, always instilled in me a strong work ethic and a deeply rooted patriotism. They showed me how long held American values have made our country great and can bring success in every endeavor I have the courage to undertake.
After graduating from South Christian High School in 1999, I followed in my father’s footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Army. There I enjoyed service for over 12 years. However, as much as I loved being a soldier, I always knew pleasure was never its intent. During my service, I had the honor of serving under the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as a bomb disposal expert. This meant that life was always dangerous and very often deadly.
Working under JSOC meant fighting at the tip of the spear in the ongoing war against radical Islamic terrorism. Being a bomb technician in this high level of special operations came with a great responsibility. My task was protecting my fellow soldiers from the war’s most deadly weapon, the improvised explosive device (IED). This meant placing myself directly in the line of fire on each and every mission.
While I was able to detect and destroy most of these IED’s, the very last IED I found resulted in sustained catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both my legs. During this time in service I was awarded medals for valor, merit, and sacrifice, to include The Bronze Star Medal,The Army Commendation Medal for Valor, The Purple Heart Medal, and The Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
I believe in my heart that the trials we each face have little importance compared to what we do in response to each challenge that we face. We as Americans do not curl up into a corner and quit when life gets tough. We own our challenges. We use those challenges as the tool to make us the strongest we have ever been. I believe it is that kind of people we must never cease to be.
As a result, when I awoke after injury in Walter Reed Army Medical Center my focus was singular: get better, get back to work, and get back to serving America. I decided I was not going to let the best defense I have given our country be in my past. Each day thereafter consisted of 8 grueling hours of physical therapy. In addition to recovery and my ongoing military duties, I would also provide my requested expertise to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF).
Following retirement from the Army, I continued my work in counter terrorism and national defense as an Explosive Specialist under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I also carried forward in life the standard that whatever cause I believe in, I will not just support in word, but will support with the work of my hands. For this reason, in 2015, I volunteered to serve alongside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to show support for the freedom Israel represents throughout the Middle East and the world.
I was proud to pledge my life in defense of our country. That is a commitment which will always live inside of me. I am humbled and honored to fight for you as your Congressman from Florida’s 18th congressional district. I strive to serve you in Congress as I did on the battlefield: without regard for personal gain or personal sacrifice.