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thedrifter
10-03-07, 08:28 AM
Navy medic recovering from ambush in Iraq
Despite crushed cheek bones, broken nose and exposed skull, Manteca native's personality shining through, aunt says
By Paul Burgarino

STAFF WRITER
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched:10/03/2007 03:03:43 AM PDT

MANTECA -- Though his appearance may never be the same, family members are taking some solace that Manteca native Christopher Braley is showing signs of his gregarious nature.

Braley, 23, a Navy medic with a Marine battalion in Iraq continues to recover at a Maryland military hospital after an ambush Sept. 16.

A piece of shrapnel from an improvised explosive device struck the right side of his face, taking out his eye and lodging in his brain, his grandfather Larry Braley said.

His aunt Louise Mendosa said Braley seems to be coherent, though his speech is fairly slow.

"He's aware of who's there, he's even joking with his cousins Melissa and Rachel who he lived with in San Diego," she said. Mendosa said Braley told his cousins that he loves his grandmother and doesn't mind her being there. However, her coddling was driving him crazy.

"His mind is still there, despite all the injuries. That's the best thing: that Christopher is still Christopher," Mendosa said.

Braley's cheek bones are crushed, his nose is broken and a part of his skull is still open as doctors continue to work on reducing the swelling in his brain, Mendosa said, adding that Braley's mother, Debbie, said doctors are trying to reconstruct his face by building up his cheekbones.

"His spirits are down, especially when he saw what he looked like," his aunt said. "He was popular with all the girls and a handsome young man. I can't even imagine what he must be feeling."

Braley, nicknamed "Doc" by the Marines he was stationed with, is a graduate of Sierra High School who starred on the school basketball team and was somewhat of a class clown.

He was placed in an induced coma for the 12-hour flight that took him from a hospital in Germany to Bethesda, Md., grandmother Jane Braley said. He had been in Iraq for about two months.

The Braley and Mendosa families have been a part of the Manteca community for a long time. In hopes of helping Braley by allowing his mother, grandparents and cousins to stay in Bethesda for the duration of Braley's stay, his aunt and other family members have been gathering donations throughout Manteca during the past week.

The military pays for one parent or loved one to stay nearby for one month.

A benefit dinner is set to be held Friday at Chez Shari restaurant at the Manteca Park Golf Course.

Mendosa said that once Braley is granted access to return to the area, he most likely would have to stay at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto before hopefully returning to Manteca.

"It's going to be a slow process, but we're grateful for those thinking and praying for Christopher," she said.

Reach Paul Burgarino at 209-832-6143 or pburgarino@bayareanewsgroup.com.

HOW TO HELP

WHAT: Benefit dinner for Manteca Navy corpsman Christopher Braley

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. to midnight Friday

WHERE: Chez Shari restaurant, 305 N. Union Road

COST: $30

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets can be bought at Tammy's Baby Shoppe, 100 block of North Main Street, 209-239-5537; First Assembly of God office, 486 Button Avenue, 209-239-1371; or by calling Louise Mendosa at 209-275-7566

DONATIONS: A fund has been set up on his behalf at the Bank of Stockton, account No. 1250009527, 660 N. Main St., Manteca, 209-249-2200.

MAILING ADDRESS: HM Christopher Braley, National Naval Medical Center; Building 9 - ICU; 8901 Wisconsin Ave.; Bethesda, MD 20889.

Ellie