SAN DIEGO - No one understands what Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon feels like better than local service members wounded in IED explosions.
To some, 3,000-miles away in Boston, the terror on the streets and the mass casualties look eerily similar.
"The big difference here is that when you are in a combat environment you're vigilant to that possibly happening, whereas the tragedy in Boston, you shouldn't really be prepared for that," said Greg Figueroa who is with Strategic Operations.
He works at a hyper-realistic Afghan village training facility on the Stu Segall production lot in Kearny Mesa.
Figueroa is also a former platoon corpsman from the U.S. Navy who was deployed to Iraq in 2008. He patrolled the country near the borders of Syria and Turkey and had not one, but two IEDs detonate nearby.
"Probably the most eerie thing is that you can see the explosion before you can hear it," he told 10News "You can train and train and train for these things but there's really no guidebook on how you're supposed to react."
More than 180 people were injured when the small explosives detonated Monday in Boston. Investigators say at least one pressure cooker was packed with nails, metal pellets and ball-bearings to do maximum damage.
"Whoever made these devices knew what they were doing," Figueroa said.
From the severe shrapnel wounds to more than a dozen amputations, many of the injuries are severe.
Liz Norden's two sons each lost a leg in Monday's explosions.
"They both lost a leg below to the knee," said Norden in Boston on Tuesday. "I really don't know too much. It is all a nightmare."
Figueroa told 10News that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder but finds extreme comfort in talking with doctors at the VA Medical Center in San Diego.
He had this message for those in Boston who feel helpless in the wake of the attack.
"Talk about it," he said. "Stay strong. It happened, but there are others who are dealing with it as well. Talk to them about it. Don't keep it bottled up."