[Note: This article was written by Marine mom, Ashley Edwardson]
Several years ago I read the extraordinary story of Purple Heart recipient Marine Sgt. Merlin German. I originally planned to write about one of America’s Medal of Honor Recipients for Memorial Day but the story of Sgt. German’s bravery, both on and off the battlefield, has stayed with me and it seemed today would be the perfect day to remember his service to his country, his suffering, and the example he set both in life and death.
Sgt. German was born in 1985 to parents who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. Upon graduation from high school Merlin joined the United States Marines. At the age of 21, Sgt. German was injured by a roadside bomb. He was burned over 97 percent of his body — which would have killed almost anyone else in that situation but German continued fighting to survive.
Sgt. German was terribly disfigured, lost his fingers, and endured over 40 surgeries and 17 months in a hospital. During this time, his brother reported that he sometimes felt depressed but one day stated, ” wait a minute, I was burned 97 percent. I only had a 3 percent chance of living. I can do whatever I want to. ”
Sgt. German and his indomitable spirit became an inspiration for everyone in the hospital. He became known as the Miracle Marine and the Miracle Man, starting his own foundation to help burn victims. He visited other hospital patients and encouraged them to keep going.
During these months of pain and surgery Sgt. German became determined to take his mother to the Marine Corps Ball. Even though he was barely able to move and it was impossible to wear his dress uniform, he resolved to succeed. Sgt. German did succeed. He escorted his mother to the ball. Sgt. German died a short time later following a rather routine surgery, but achieved more in his short life than some who live 100 years.
Today we must remember the sacrifices of our military members and to remind all Americans of the heavy price paid by those who defend us and our way of life. Too many young Americans think of Memorial Day as a free day off from school, or a day to hit the malls or attend a movie. At some point in the recent past, we stopped teaching our children about those for whom the day was created, along with failing to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every school day, or standing during the national anthem. I personally don’t believe we’re a better country or a better people as a result of these changes.
Many times these warriors say they fight for each other and that may well be true. But we receive the benefits of their efforts: freedom and self determination. Perhaps it will help the families of our fallen to know we remember their stories and realize we owe them a debt we cannot repay.
[Note: This article was written by Ashley Edwardson]