Wounded Marine regaining memory
Lance Cpl. Bryan Carpenter doesn't recall Iraq explosion, but he is making progress
By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

Until Aug. 9, Marine Lance Cpl. Bryan Carpenter remembered nothing of being in Iraq.

But on that day, something clicked in the head of the 20-year-old who grew up in Rittman and Seville.

It happened while he was talking to a caseworker at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Richmond, Va.

``Oh my God, Mom,'' he later told his mother, Vicki Becerra-Huff, holding his hands over his eyes and crying, as he began to remember being at war.

This week, Carpenter, now being treated at Akron General Medical Center's Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation facility in Lakemore, said he still has no memory of the improvised explosive device that struck his Humvee on June 5, wounding him and three other Marines.

Carpenter was ejected from the vehicle and suffered a brain injury from the force of the blast, along with a shattered pelvis, fractured back, broken ankle and other injuries.

Before his memory of the war came back, all he remembered was training, said his mother, a licensed practical nurse, who has been on leave from her job since he was wounded.

At that time, she said, he only had dreams of being in Iraq. In those dreams, he was the only one of his unit to survive, she said.

Then the light went on.

``It just hit me like a ton of bricks,'' Carpenter said Friday of his sudden recall of his deployment with a Marine Reserve unit out of Erie, Pa.

It was the caseworker's mention of a combat lock, a lock inside a door to a Humvee, that triggered Carpenter's memory.

After that, he began talking about the roads, the sand, the heat, his friends, and his missions with the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines.

``Things started to come back,'' said the 2004 graduate of Rittman High School and the Wayne County Career Center.

Then he phoned his three friends who were wounded with him.

After he was treated in Iraq, he spent months at the National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., including two weeks in a medically induced coma.

President Bush visited him at Bethesda and asked him what had happened.

Carpenter told him he was wounded by an improvised explosive device.

``He said, `I'm hearing that a lot lately,' '' Carpenter said.

The president shook Carpenter's hand and went to the next room.

Carpenter also spent some time at the McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

He arrived at Edwin Shaw on Sept. 8 and gets three hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy each day.

On Friday, for the second day, he walked with a cane and the help of physical therapy assistant Aleta Mehring of Cuyahoga Falls.

He will probably be treated there until Friday, when he will go to his mother's home in Seville. He'll continue being treated as an outpatient at Edwin Shaw.

Dr. Anthony Hayek, who specializes in physical medicine rehabilitation at Edwin Shaw, said Carpenter had made much progress before arriving at Edwin Shaw.

``He is doing a lot better,'' he said.

Carpenter said the injury to his pelvis and back cause pain in his hip and in other places.

Because of nerve injury, he has difficulty moving his left foot up and down.

Because of the blast injury to his head, Carpenter has had problems with short-term memory, he said.

To solve this, his mother said he writes things down on lists.

Carpenter followed his brother into the military. His brother, Sgt. Brandon Carpenter, is now at Fort Hood, Texas. He has served two tours in Iraq.

It was no easy thing to get into the Marines.

At first he was turned down, he said, because of psoriasis.

He wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Navarre, he said.

His fiancee, Danielle Crowe, was working at a tanning salon at the time and so Carpenter began spending time in the tanning booth to clear up his skin condition.

After many sessions, the light from the salon cleared up his skin problem and he was accepted into the Marines in 2005.

He and Crowe are to be married next spring or summer, he said.

He hopes to continue making progress until then, and would like to work on the business side of a construction company.

Now, he is on what is called limited duty status with the Marines. That will continue for several more months, his mother said, before a decision will be made on a medical discharge or retirement from the Marines.

In October, he will be in Erie, Pa., to welcome his Reserve unit home.

The Marine, who has lost 30 pounds since coming back from Iraq, is grateful that so many people have been thinking about him since he was wounded.

``Everybody's prayers took care of me,'' he said.

On Sept. 30, his family, including his mother and his father, John Carpenter of Rittman, will have a Welcome Home Open House for the community from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hartland Party Center at 8171 Rittman Road in Sterling.

Get-well cards can be sent to Carpenter at 5175 W. Main St., Seville, OH 44273.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.