My name is John Stanz, I am a Recon Marine with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion and I was deployed March 17, 2009 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (O.E.F.).
August 15, 2009, an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.) catastrophically destroyed the vehicle in which I was riding while returning from a snatch and grab mission. The I.E.D. was used to initiate an ambush and my team sustained a 2½-hour gunfight minus the assistance from the passengers of my vehicle, as everyone in it was either dead or unconscious like myself. After the fire fight, I was med-evaced to the Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. After two days, the first attempt to fly me out of the country had failed due to destabilization of pressure in my skull. My family was informed that they would be flown to Landstuhl to say “Good-bye” to their son/brother, as people do not live through the injuries that I had sustained. My injuries included: An extremely severe Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.), broken right hand, broken left foot, broken bones on the right side of the face, torn right brachial plexus nerve, torn facial nerve, bruised lungs, torn right A.C.L and P.C.L. and what would become a 5 ½ week coma. Eight days after my family arrived, my skull pressure stabilized enough to attempt the flight a second time. I was flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, M.D. At this hospital my family was told that I would not awaken from the coma and that they should find a nursing home for me to finish the duration of my life in a coma. My family was not okay with this diagnosis and searched the east coast in order to find the best T.B.I. hospitals to which I could be moved. They found Moss Rehab Hospital in Elkins Park, P.A. outside of Philadelphia. After my first week in Moss Rehab I started showing signs that I may awaken from my coma. As I slowly shook the coma my family was told that I would most likely never be able to walk, talk, or even eat solid food for the rest of my life. After 1½ years of rehabilitation and therapy for every physical and mental aspect, I was ordered to return to Camp Lejeune in order to be revaluated by the Marine Corps and Naval Doctors. And it is during this stage in my healing process that I write these words today.
This chapter of my life, was a terribly trying time for my “lower-middle class” family to sustain, not only emotionally, but also monetarily. Without the help of Not For Profit Organizations providing monetary assistance for my family’s hotels, rental vehicles, food and other such items, their presence at my side could not have become a reality. This is particularly significant because my parents both needed to quit their jobs in order to stay by my side throughout this injury. There is no doubt in my mind that it is due to the support of my amazing family that I am here today, but without the assistance of such organizations their presence would not have been a possibility. Thus, my sincere personal thanks goes out to all such organizations.
It is Organizations like this, coupled with this nation’s demonstrated ability to learn from past wrong doings (such as the mistreatment of our Veterans during such conflicts as Vietnam) that I am proud to be American. There is not a country in this world in which I would rather live and raise my family. And, I speak on this subject with a certain amount of knowledge, as I have visited many countries around the world, both war-torn and completely peaceful.
After finishing advanced physical therapy, a fellow Marine told me about Crossfit Wilmington, and that it could provide me with an even more advanced “physical therapy/rehab.” Having never visited any CrossFit gym I was unsure of what to expect and if I would be able to physically handle it with my injuries. After introducing myself to some of the staff at the gym and explaining my situation to them, they showed me around and taught me the common exercises and ways to customize them for my injuries. I found that although this gym offered a very demanding physical routine, the staff was willing to work with me at my own pace in order to get me back to- and hopefully one day surpass- the physical condition that I was in prior to my injuries.”