Marine Sgt. Merlin German, 22, of Manhattan, N.Y.
Sgt. German was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died April 11, 2008 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Anbar, Iraq, on Feb. 22, 2005. He had been medically retired on Sept. 28, 2007, as a result of his injuries.
Marine burned on 97 percent of body dies
By Dan Lamothe
Sgt. Merlin German had been struggling with burn wounds covering more than 97 percent of his body for nearly two years when he made a decision: painful or not, he was going to don his dress blues and whisk his mother away for a dance during a hospital ball.
Over the next few weeks, he practiced his dancing at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, with Norma Guerra, the hospital’s deputy chief of public affairs, Guerra said. And when the 2006 Brooke’s Holiday Ball arrived, he surprised his mother on the dance floor, taking her in his arms.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Guerra said. “He had made up his mind, and he was going to do it.”
That’s one of many memories that friends and family have of German, 22, who died April 11 at the hospital, Defense Department officials said Thursday. He was assigned to 5th Battalion, 11th Marines and attached to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines in Iraq at the time of the explosion that left him severely wounded.
His death halted an endless cycle of surgeries, skin grafts and doctor’s appointments that began Feb. 21, 2005, the day a gas-fed improvised explosive devise detonated near German’s Humvee outside Camp Ramadi, according to a Web site started in Merlin’s memory.
Family members described German on the Web site, www.merlinsmiracles.com, as a proud American who loved children.
“He touched the lives of everyone he met,” the family said. “He taught us strength, courage and unity.”
Guerra said even in the midst of all his surgeries, he went out of his way to brighten the days of others, encouraging fellow patients in the burn unit with lesser wounds to dress well and carry themselves with pride.
“He looked at it as he had received a second chance, and he wanted to make a difference,” Guerra said.
Before he died, German told family members he “had a vision to help burned children and their families,” the family said on his Web said. “He wanted the foundation to be named Merlin’s Miracles.”
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Community recalls jovial Marine
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
HARTSDALE — Merlin German showed up at his senior prom stag, but brought a garbage bag filled with disposable cameras to sell to his classmates with dates.
“He went to prom by himself because he was ‘too exclusive,’” said Joe A. Foy, German’s counselor at Woodlands High School. “I said, ‘What about when you want to dance?’ He said, ‘It’s OK, I’ll take someone else’s date.’”
German, a 22-year-old Marine sergeant, died April 11, three years after a roadside bomb in Iraq burned 97 percent of his body, disfiguring his face and destroying his hands. The Marine, a 2003 graduate of Woodlands High School, was remembered last night for his jovial personality and punchy sense of humor.
Classmates and friends said German quickly became popular when he enrolled at Woodlands in 2001 after transferring from a high school in Manhattan. He was voted homecoming king runner-up; teachers described German as the loudest cheering student at graduation.
He never stopped talking about joining the military, a goal he achieved when he enlisted in the Marines after high school.
Girlfriend Vanessa Brand first met German in middle school. They began to date after high school when they randomly ran into each other in the Dominican Republic. In the fall of 2004, German became part of a weapons platoon for convoy security in Iraq. They kept in touch.
“Through letters, phone calls and e-mails, through his tough exterior, there was a warm, caring person you couldn’t help falling in love with,” she said last night.
German was in charge of spotting improvised explosive devices and had spotted many without injury — until Feb. 21, 2005. While traveling from Jordan to Baghdad, a bomb exploded next to his vehicle and set the young Marine on fire. He survived, despite being given a 3 percent chance of living.
School counselor Holly Gant Jones called German “one tough cookie.”
“I know it was a sense of pride (for him) to be the most injured Marine in the history of the corps,” she said.
Best friend Jedd Chesterson said he feared facing him for the first time.
“At first I was nervous,” he said. “How do react when you see your friend who has been through so much?”
German died three weeks ago as he recovered from a surgery.
Friends and family wore T-shirts last night for “Merlin’s Miracles,” a charity he started to help burned children. The shirts read: “You got a 3 percent chance of living? What you gonna do? Fight through. Stay strong. Overcome because I am a warrior. All of the above.”
Marine Sgt. Merlin German remembered
The Associated Press
As an exceedingly friendly and outgoing teen with a knack for delivering sarcastic one-liners, Merlin German quickly became one of his school’s most popular students.
“He was the most charismatic and personable young man we’ve ever had,” said high school guidance counselor Joe Foy II.
German, 22, of New York City, died April 11 at Brooke Army Medical Center from wounds suffered during combat in Anbar province on Feb. 22, 2005. He was a 2003 high school graduate and was assigned to Camp Pendleton.
He was dubbed the “Miracle Man” for his determination in facing his wounds, which cost the former saxophone player his fingers and rippled his face with scars. He endured more than 40 surgeries, spent 17 months in a hospital and had to learn to walk again.
He started a charity, Merlin’s Miracles, to aid child burn victims and considered college and a career.
“Sometimes I do think I can’t do it,” he said last year. “Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want. ... Nobody has ever been 97 percent dead and survived, and lived to walk.”
He is survived by his parents, Lourdes and Hemery.
Marine Sgt. Merlin German died as a result of combat operations on 4/11/08.
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