A wounded warrior’s journey

3 09 2009

MarkSunnyCoverI borrowed the title for this post from (Ret.) Army Cpt. Mark Brogan’s blog. I had the immense honor of meeting and photographing Mark and his wife, Sunny, during the Hearing Loss Association of America‘s convention in Nashville in June. I found him (and Sunny as well) to be very candid, friendly, sweet and remarkably resilient. Mark shared his story (along with scars and his amazing Purple Heart tattoo, courtesy of Miami Ink)—it was a humbling experience for me. Mark was a guest speaker and the cover subject of our September 2009 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in my mailbox today. Mark just turned 29 on August 31. Happy belated birthday, Mark!

He was a United States Calvary Officer in A Troop, 4th Squadron 14th Calvary, 172 Stryker Brigade Combat team, deployed from Fort Wainwright, Alaska to Iraq to lead a platoon of infantry soldiers. A TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor, Mark was wounded while on a foot patrol in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq, on April 11, 2006. In addition to the injuries to his skull and arm, his right eardrum was perforated and he has severe-to-profound hearing loss. He wears hearing aids in both ears. Here is his incredible journey from intensive rehab to reconstructing his life, excerpted from his blog:

4/14/2009

Alive Day

The 11th of April, a day of no meaning for most of the world sans a select few. Three years ago I was unknowingly about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. I don’t remember knowing what the actual date was. Dates begin to blur together after several months of daily operations with no weekends and set work days. They just become another number in an operations order letting you know when you’ve got to execute your mission.

MarkTatooI remember the cool crisp air and “moon dust” that swirled around our vehicles as we headed into the town for our mission that day. The horrors that my men were to witness that day were forever deleted from my memory. I would stay in a comatose state for the next 18 days. Somewhere in the hazy surreality, I began to slowly realize my new reality. That day would change my life forever. During a patrol I led my patrol on, a suicide bomber strapped with three mortars walked around a corner in a market. He killed one of my soldiers and injured two, including myself. I was terribly hurt. My soldiers thought there was no way anybody could have survived such a blast. My skull had been penetrated by shrapnel and my arm nearly severed. Later during my evacuation in Germany they would discover shrapnel in my spinal cord which they assumed would cause me to be a quadriplegic.

My wife was called with the worst of news. Come to Germany and make a decision, he is most likely not going to survive and if so he would be comatose for life, quadraplegic, lose his arm, etc. She firmly told them, “you bring him to me, then I will make the decision.” Once I arrived in D.C., she believed that I was going to be all right and I pulled through.

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You can read the rest of Mark’s post about his injuries here. Mark and Sunny recently participated in the Veterans Retreat Introduction to Aviation and Flight Training course. Read Mark’s entry for the “Heroes in Paradise Best Vacation in the World” contest here. Mark was medically retired in 2007. He is a veterans’ advocate and a commander in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 356 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Read a downloadable pdf of Barbara Kelley’s feature article on Mark Brogan by clicking on the link below:
Mark Brogan Feature

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2 responses

4 09 2009
Sue Cummings

Two amazingly incredible heroes: Mark and his wife, Sunny. His love for country and her love for him both leave me breathless.

6 09 2009
thekingoftexas

Kudos for a great cover and an excellent posting—you very nicely capsuled the before, during and after his truncated Army career. Kudos also to the captain for his stamina and his resilience, and to his wife for her love and support during their ordeal.

Well done on everyone’s part!

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