This weekend, as we celebrate our freedom with barbecues and fireworks, take a few minutes to read what someone else has endured in the service of our country:
Brendan Marrocco and his brother, Michael, were constructing a summer bucket list, to get them out and about, trying new things. A Washington Nationals game versus their beloved Yankees — sure, since they were stuck here rather than home on Staten Island. Perhaps a ride on the Metro, with its reliable elevators. Pizza: definitely.
How about going to an amusement park? Michael suggested optimistically.
“Would that really be safe?” asked Brendan, a smirk crossing his lips.
The beach? “I don’t do beach anymore,” Brendan replied. Then what about the National Zoo, the one with the pandas? “They got pandas?” Brendan said, razzing his brother again. “Why didn’t you mention that?”
Clutching a pen firmly in his oversize rubber hand, Brendan Marrocco completed the lineup. A trip to Annapolis, Md. A ride on a boat. And, his personal favorite, firing guns. He drew a miniature picture of a handgun next to that one.
Each would be a major accomplishment for Brendan Marrocco, who a year before had come so close to death that doctors still marvel over how he dodged it. At 22, he was a spry, charming infantryman in the United States Army with a slicing wit and a stubborn streak. Then, on Easter Sunday 2009, a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle, and he became the first veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to lose all four limbs in combat and survive.
In the nearly 15 months since, Specialist Marrocco has pushed past pain and exhaustion to learn to use his four prosthetics, though he can walk for only 15 minutes at a time. He has met sports stars like Jorge Posada and Tiger Woods — and become something of a star himself here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where his moxie and humor are an inspiration to hundreds of other wounded service members.
Read on. It’s incredible.