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It was all over the news yesterday, on every network and cable outlet, in all of he papers, and for the best of reasons. It is a story that shows us all the character and courage of one young man, but more too. It shows us that our humanity is greater than our failures, more powerful than our losses, more noble than we usually imagine.
On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Sgt. Brendan Marrocco was driving a military vehicle that was struck by a powerful roadside bomb in Iraq. The result was that he became the first serviceman involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive the loss of all four limbs. He lost both legs above the knee, he lost his left arm below the elbow an his right arm above the elbow. Most of us would be devastated, not just physically, but emotionally by such an injury. But Sgt. Brendan Marrocco is made of sturdier stuff. Over the last three years of recovery and rehabilitation, he mastered the use of four artificial limbs. He learned to walk again. In the interview he said, "I could take the loss of my legs, but I hated losing my arms." He expressed how not having his arms made life more difficult than you can imagine.
Brendan Marrocco has become a first in another way now too. That is what all the news was about yesterday. He has become the first quadruple amputee serviceman to receive a double-arm transplant. The operation took place last month. It has been six weeks since the surgery and yesterday he was brought before the press, along with the surgeons who were involved in the transplant effort. He actually wheeled himself out in his wheel chair. He showed how much mobility he has been able to develop with his "new" arms. He is able to do something again that most of us take for granted and do without thinking many times a day; he is able to scratch his nose again.
Throughout the last three years of recovery and rehab, Brendan Marrocco maintained an optimism, a sense of humor that defies the tragedy of his injuries. He is a bright young man in possession of a deep and real love of life. He said quite clearly that though his wounds were catastrophic, he was very happy to be alive. It seems that he has been driven by the attitude that life is more precious and valuable than giving in to despair, or bitterness. His character, his positive attitude toward life, and his courage humbles all of us. We are overwhelmed by his nobility and the value of life he expresses with his indomitable spirit. He gives us an example of courage and determination that encourages us all to address the problems of our own lives with more grace and positivity.
In a Seattle Times article on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, it is reported that many amputees have been fitted with very sophisticated mechanical prostheses. Dr. Andrew Lee, one of the people involved in the transplant surgery says that the young ones, those between 20 and 30, tend not to accept and use them. The transplant surgery that Brendan Marrocco has undergone is incredibly complex. He also said, that though there are huge medical, psychological and logistical complexities to overcome with transplant surgeries of this kind, they hold great promise for the future.
In that same Seattle Times article I read that patients who have undergone these arm transplants, and there are about 60 who have, all around the world, ..."have learned how to tie shoes again, use chopsticks, and put their hair in a ponytail.
This story is not over. Sgt. Brendan Marrocco has more rehab and physical therapy work ahead of him. He, most likely, will not get 100% use of his new arms, but he is happily appreciative of having this part of his life and personality restored to him to whatever degree is possible. He is not one to be trifled with when it comes to his personal character and courage. He has plans, dreams. He hopes to be able to participate in sporting events in the future. He wants to learn how to swim again and he wants to do a marathon in a hand driven device sometime in the not too distant future.
Sgt. Brendan Marrocco is one of the best among us. He is a model of human courage, endurance, optimism, and strength. We all hope and pray that the transplant will be supremely successful for him. With his attitude and character, we believe that he will do everything humanly possible to ensure that his progress is positive, and successful.
Thank you for your service to the nation, Sgt. Brendan Marrocco. We honor you and admire you. We thank you for showing us the better angels of our nature. God speed. Good health. We look forward to cheering you across the finish line of some race in the future.