Less than two months into his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Army 1st Lt. Brian Brennan, three other soldiers and a civilian were the victims of two improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
Brennan, 23, and the Humvee driver, Spc. Ryan Price of California, were the only two to survive.
When officials found Brennan, a decorated Citadel graduate, he was bleeding severely and in cardiac arrest, said his mother, Joanne Brennan.
He was revived and taken to a hospital in a nearby safe zone where his legs were amputated, one above the knee and one below.
In total, the Howell High School graduate had suffered an acute brain injury, a fractured left shoulder blade and pelvic bone, a collapsed lung, internal bleeding from a ruptured spleen, multiple compound fractures to his left arm and a shattered femur. Brennan needed 10 units of blood as well as 20 units of platelets, a need answered by fellow soldiers who needed to immediately return to the field for combat, his mother said.
"I remember his dirty blue right hand," Joanne Brennan said of the soot that remained from the explosion. "This filthy dirty blue hand was all I could touch and hold and all I could kiss, but I didn't care."
Brian Brennan had to undergo three surgeries a week in order for doctors to keep infection away from his legs, all the while conducting other operations to repair the broken bones. Brennan fought multiple infections and bouts with pneumonia.
Brian Brennan remained unresponsive, but there were smalls signs of progress. But soon a visit from a high-ranking official sparked a cognitive response.
On Day 23, Gen. David H. Patraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, visited Brennan.
Although he conversed at length with Brennan, it was not until the general uttered "currahee," a Cherokee Indian word meaning "we stand alone," that Brennan's condition changed, his mother said.
"Suddenly Brian sat up, at attention, and became extremely emotional," Joanne Brennan said.
Almost one week later, Brennan was transfered to the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital's Polytrauma Unit in Tampa, Fla., where physical rehabilitation and cognitive therapies are being conducted.
"He's doing very well medically," Brennan's father said. "He's a hundred percent medically, but with a traumatic brain injury, it just takes time."