17 March 2010

Home Sweet Home

Staff Sgt. Marty Brownlee, outside his sister’s Newton County residence, is home after surviving a suicide bomber’s attack in Afghanistan.
Staff Photo: Erin Evans.

Staff Sgt. Marty Brownlee, Bravo Co. 2/121 Infantry of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade, tells the story of how he was wounded February 11 at a remote outpost in Afghanistan during a suicide bombing attack.

He’s had several surgeries for his injuries, but Brownlee knows it could have been much worse. The bomber detonated his device in the doorway of a building where the soldiers were staying — had he made it a few feet farther into the building, Brownlee believes the damage would have been greater, maybe fatal.

Brownlee suspects the bomber was startled by barking dogs the soldiers had taken in — an eyewitness reported one of the dogs was biting at the man’s ankles — as well the presence of Sgt. 1st Class Gary Ware, who was walking down the hallway as the bomber entered.

“He may not have expected that. I guess he just freaked out and detonated early,” Brownlee said. “If he had been another 4 or 5 feet inside, it would have done some serious damage.”

Brownlee had just hung up from a phone conversation with his wife and settled in for the night when he heard the explosion that blew through the steel reinforced door to his room. He looked down to see a piece of metal sticking out of his foot.

“I put my boots on, and that hurt like crap, to put boots on over metal that was stuck in bone,” he said.

Initially, the soldiers thought it was a mortar attack. Once they realized it was a suicide bomber, they went into gear to prepare for another attack. Brownlee said suicide bombings often precede a larger attack.

At that point, Brownlee said adrenaline had taken over and though he knew he was injured, he could hardly feel the pain.

“My whole focus was, ‘We’re getting attacked. I’m not going to be in the medical center if we’re getting attacked. I can still move. I’m still in the fight,’” he said.

Another attack never came; it was time to assess the damage. There were six casualties and only one fatality — one of the stray dogs who had first spotted the bomber. Another dog was wounded but is on the mend.

Ware and Brownlee were the most seriously injured. Ware was hit by shrapnel in the eye and in the heart. Incredibly, he survived and is recovering.

Brownlee was hit in the foot, upper thigh and neck. A photo of his wound looks like a small crater — the gash in his thigh was about 4 inches long, 2 inches wide and half an inch deep.

There's more at the link, and more about Bravo Company's canine heroes Rufus and Sasha here and here.

All the best for a speedy recovery, Marty and Garrye!

"Brownlee asked that anyone interested in supporting soldiers donate to Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit organization that sends food and other items to deployed and wounded soldiers.

After he was wounded, Brownlee received clothes, blankets and pillows from the organization. The organization has also provided voice activated computers to soldiers who have lost use of their hands, he said.

“They make sure all soldiers are taken care of — they treat them like kings.”"

Thanks, Marty. But to us, you guys are better than kings. You are our heroes!

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