Marine Loses Leg and Hand to IED Blast. Decides Smiles for His ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Picture Before Evac.
Deployed as a bomb technician in 2011, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Meyer was working with a device he was trying to defuse when it exploded. He suffered life altering-injuries, including the loss of his right leg, right hand, and three fingers on his left hand. Yet, through all this, he insisted that Eric Lunson take his photograph.
Meyer, who was 29-years-old at the time of the incident in Afghanistan, was being treated on the battlefield when he ordered Lunson to take the picture. Meyer feared that the serious nature of his injuries would have a negative impact on his squad, so, despite the extreme pain, he forced a smile and attempted to give a thumbs up, which was captured on film.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, Meyer hoped that the image would be inspirational to his men as he prepared for what would be a long road to recovery.
Meyer was able to join a study, run by the Naval Health Research Center, which hoped to observe how military members who suffer debilitating and life-changing injuries cope and enjoy life.
“I focus on what I have left, not what I lost,” said Meyer when discussing his recovery.
Meyer received prosthetics to replace his right leg, which he lost above the knee, and his right hand, which he lost above the wrist.
He has received a range of cutting-edge treatments, including a therapy that uses ablative lasers to help ease scar tissue, allowing Meyer to have a greater range of motion in his remaining fingers, the ring and pinky fingers on his left hand.
Chief dermatologist at Naval Medical Center San Diego Cmdr. Peter Shumaker worked with Meyer during his recovery.
“It’s a privilege to work with soldiers and Marines, like Brian,” said Shumaker, “because they’re young and motivated and healthy and they can go farther than we ever thought.”
“They don’t want to just walk,” Shumaker added. “They want to do things that their colleagues are going, their friends are going.”
Meyer aimed for a full recovery, declining an offer for a wheelchair ramp at his home, and learned to walk with the prosthetic leg. He also successfully regained the ability to hold a toothbrush, write, dial his phone, and pull the trigger on a hunting rifle.
Since receiving treatments, he has even been able to ride his motorcycle.
Speaking about the photograph of him smiling, Meyer said, “It’s the exact opposite of what somebody expects you to do. So, when I show it to people, and they are inspired by it, instead of being shocked, I know they get it.”