On Memorial Day we of course remember and honor all of the men and women who have sacrificed (and continue to do so) for our freedoms in this wonderful country. But I was especially moved by what I read and watched about this young, VERY young hero, Sgt. Merlin German. So many little details that jumped out, ohhhh, boy. And starting a charity for burned kids while you're recovering from horrific burns yourself? Unbelievable.
Here is one story of this beautiful American:
BAMC's 'Miracle Man' didn't let injuries hurt his spirit
Web Posted: 04/16/2008 12:23 AM CDT
To the doctors, staff and patients, he was a walking beacon of hope, having survived burns to 97 percent of his body from a roadside blast in Iraq.
Though he died unexpectedly after a surgery last week, the indomitable spirit of Sgt. Merlin German lives on at Brooke Army Medical Center, friends and family members said during a touching tribute to the Marine called the "Miracle Man."
In his three years at BAMC — first a record 17 months in inpatient care, then more than a year in outpatient therapy — German was a living legend whose inspiring determination drew the interest of President Bush, actor Chuck Norris and other VIPs he met. Everything about him, from sarcastic one-liners to his color-coordinated medical garments, will be missed at BAMC, which has treated more than 3,700 troops wounded in the Middle East.
"There is no way to adequately describe what Merlin did for us," said Lt. Col. Evan Renz, director of the Army Burn Center at BAMC.
German, who was living in Windcrest, died Friday night after routine surgery Thursday to place skin on his lip, BAMC officials said. Results of an autopsy are pending.
The youngest of eight children growing up in New York, Merlin and his brothers weren't allowed to play with toy guns, his brother Ariel German said. By age 11, he had decided he'd become a Marine so he could shoot a real gun.
He turned out to be an outstanding gunner in the Marines, with a knack for spotting hidden explosives in Iraq. On Feb. 21, 2005, on a reconnaissance mission, his Humvee was hit by an explosive near Ramadi.
German survived a 13-hour flight from Germany but was only given a 3 percent chance of survival. All but the top of his head and soles of his feet had been burned. But after 11 months in intensive care, he'd visit new burn patients, encouraging them to keep heart.
Tuesday's ceremony paid tribute to the 22-year-old who seemed a study in contradiction — a tough Marine whose tenderness showed in the affections he showered on his mother. He loved loud hip-hop music but prayed three or four times daily.
"Love is the only word strong and powerful enough to describe how we all felt about Merlin," said Brig. Gen. James K. Gilman, BAMC commander.
Gilman said he'll miss seeing German and gently bumping his fist against the nubs of what had once been German's fingers, after asking him, "Hey man, how ya doing?" But he said German left behind words for BAMC's staff and patients to live by when times get rough.
"If Merlin were here today, there is no doubt in my mind what he would say: 'Fight through, stay strong and overcome because we are warriors,'" Gilman said.
At the burn center, German was part of a trio of burn patients who would mentor the newly wounded, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Edwards, who had burns to 79 percent of his body from a bomb blast in Iraq in 2005.
"If I couldn't make an impression on them, I'd use Merlin as the example," Edwards said.
German wanted no sympathy, and had a biting sense of humor, in spite of a wispy voice from his damaged throat and lungs.
"Chris, I know you've got money. Let me teach you how to dress," he'd tell Edwards.
His gentle side came through in his dream of forming a foundation, called Merlin's Miracles, to help burned children. In lieu of flowers, his family asked that donations be sent to a mailing address posted on the foundation's Web site, merlinsmiracles.com. A funeral is planned next week in Florida.
Edwards said German's death is a loss for everyone at BAMC.
"I really don't think it's set in yet," he said.
Near the end of the ceremony, Lt. Col. Grant Olbrich, officer in charge of BAMC's Marine patient affairs team, described an image of German, now free of pain and the scars of war, guarding the streets of heaven.
"And he's beautiful, and he's laughing," Olbrich said.
Online at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA041608.01A.Marine.3832796.html
Some other good stories about Sgt. German at his charity's website, Merlin's Miracles, here. (And a great cause for a spring contribution, BTW).
And if you can take blubbering like a baby today, here is the video of his funeral.
Rest in peace, Sgt. German, we will not forget you and your example.