John in Afghanistan 2009- 1 month prior to Incident
John 2 weeks after Incident

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.”

John 2 years to the day after the Incident

14 thoughts on “John’s Story

  1. Meagan says:

    John-It has been fun working with you. We are so glad to have you at CFW. Thank you for sharing your story and showing us how you and your family have survived tragedy. Thank you for all you do and for coming into the gym and always giving it your all! You are a true inspiration. Watching you run through FGB tabata was AWESOME!!!! Keep up the good work!

    From the short quirky girl that always gives you a hard time….Meagan. 🙂

  2. Albert Steed says:

    Inspirational stuff. My cousin was hit by an IED when in Afghan last and he was one of the lucky ones on his squad. I am glad to be able to take part of something like this to give back a fraction of what you guys and gals give us.

  3. t. says:

    John, a true honor to be part of your recovery.

    It’s sad… our law makers (money-spenders) waste the “revenues” collected from us on so many worthless expenditures, but our injured servicemen and women need (absolutely must) turn to nonprofits for the financial help to survive the rehabilitation process and all its costs.

    It is an embarrassing fault we should demand our leaders correct.

  4. Em says:

    You are a true inspiration. I see so many patients that have survived injuries that are nothing in comparison to what you have gone thru, and they have given up and deteriorated, physically and emotionally. Staying motivated and focused enough to be where you are today is a statement of the strong person you are, mentally and physically. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing person!

  5. Tanner says:

    John, it has been amazing working with you the past few months. Your positive attitude and willingness to work hard encourage me and everyone around you. I’m honored to be a part of your recovery.
    For those who haven’t yet signed up and donated to Fight Gone Bad, do it. Organizations like the ones supported by FGB help soldiers like John and their families fight through trying times.

  6. Nick says:

    That was an amazing post. God bless you and it is a honor to have you at our gym. Thank you… keep it up.

  7. Merritt says:

    WOW!!! That is truly an amazing story. Keep up the great work. It is an honor to train at the same Crossfit facility as you.

  8. Rosie says:


    I haven’t met you yet, but I admire you. Both for sharing your very personal story and for your hard work and persistence in your recovery. Thank you for all you have given. Rosie (Guendner’s wife)

  9. jillp says:

    Wish I knew who you were so I could give you a hug. Thank you. For all that you have done for our country. I truly admire your strength and courage.

  10. Melissa says:

    I am so incredibly proud of you! Everyday I see how strong and determined you are and I realize just how lucky I am to have you in my life.

  11. Nick says:

    Johnny Boy, CrossFit and nutrition? What about the Cokes and Skids? don’t you need some Skids (scratch scratch).

    Keep it up bro, you always have been a machine!


  12. Paul McClure says:


    This is a very inspirational story. I am glad to see that you are doing well and it is an honor to work out at CFW with you. Please to anyone who may read this please donate to fight gone bad.

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