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Brave New Beginnings

By Madison Monroe
Brave Editor

It was Marine Sergeant Marshall Kennedy’s fourth deployment in the war on terrorism. He’d been stationed twice in Iraq and once in the Pacific on a Marine Expeditionary Unit known as a ‘Force in Readiness’ ship. He was now in Afghanistan. His platoon had been given intel by the locals that there was a stockade of weapons hidden in a nearby enemy compound. The tip had proven true.

The Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team was called in to sweep for land mines. Giving the EOD time, Sgt. Kennedy ordered his squad to check another compound. Positioning himself in the middle of the line, he was able to keep an eye on the troops in front of him. As they moved forward, the Sgt. took a knee and looked backward to check on the men bringing up the rear.

As he turned, he felt the sickening feeling of the familiar compression of the earth. In the Nano-second before it exploded, Sgt. Kennedy’s mind registered the enormity of what was about to happen. He had just triggered an IED. The next moment he was airborne, propelled into a brick wall.

As he landed on the ground, he looked down. He saw debris, blood and torn flesh…but nothing else. He had lost both his legs.

Fully conscious, he watched his squad spring into action, each doing pre-assigned and well-practiced tasks. A single word order was given: “PROBE.” Before approaching, they quickly searched the area around him for any remaining active IED’s. Kennedy recalls, “The squad went to work probing the area to get Doc to me. When you are injured, you don’t use ranks, you use first names. Jason was the first to reach me. He put on tourniquets and tried to keep me still. I tried to sit up, but he slammed me back down. They put me on the litter [a make-shift gurney] and took me to the transport truck. Josh drove the truck to the shock trauma squad – that’s sort of a field hospital there.”

Mercifully, because of shock and nerve damage, he reports he didn’t feel any pain, just pride. The pride a Sgt. feels when his men react in crisis using the foundation built in countless classes and drills that make duty second nature. Kennedy credits those Marines and their training for saving his life.

In the next four days he was transported five times, ending up in Bethesda, Maryland, where his wife was waiting. The Marine Corps had informed her of his injury and had made arrangements for her transport and accommodations in Maryland. While he was traveling stateside, she was traveling toward the hospital.

In the ICU, he twice nearly bled out. As Kennedy explained, “In a clean amputation the wound is closed during surgery. But when you lose your legs in a traumatic way, the wounds have to be left open and a wound vac placed on them to suck out the debris.”

Once stabilized, he received multiple surgeries. He didn’t begin physical therapy for two months. The first time he walked using the parallel bars for assistance he said, “To go there and back [about five feet each way] was like a twenty mile walk. Everything has to be re-learned, from using a wheelchair to walking.”

Kennedy muses, “Eight other guys passed that IED without incident that day. The crazy thing is, it was the second time I had stepped on an IED. That’s how I recognized the feeling as the earth moved. The first time, the IED didn’t fully detonate and only messed up my ankle. This time, I lost a little more weight. But I didn’t have the time to feel sorry for myself. I have a wife. I have kids. I still have to be a dad. I am blessed that I have a really good wife. In Afghanistan, it was simple, regimented. I had it easy. She was the one at home taking care of the kids, the house, going to college and worrying about me. All I had to do was take care of the ones that were there with me.”

After his physical therapy, Kennedy had to decide what he wanted to do in life. “Being in the infantry was over for me, but I still wanted to serve.” He found out about a joint program between three agencies and after several months of training became a member of the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps (H.E.R.O.) program where he assists federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation.

“Being part of this task force seems like being part of a squad. At three or four a.m. you can get the call to ruin somebody’s day…I like catching the bad guys,” Kennedy said.

Recently Sgt. Marshall Kennedy was honored at War Memorial Stadium by the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). He received a modified truck adapted to accommodate his injuries. Mark Diggs of the MOPH organization said, “ Marshall brings attention to the young veterans. There is a whole new generation of military purple heart vets that need services that reach them during the times they need assistance. We are trying to meet those needs.”

From the Marines to marriage to magic legs to MOPH, Sgt. Marshall Kennedy has found a firm foundation of support. 

BRAVE MEANING: noun: brave | 1.a brave person. | 2.to meet or face courageously:to brave misfortunes. | 3.to defy; challenge | 4.ready to face and endure danger or pain 


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