Brendan Marrocco's American Spirit

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Updated with Video 7:24pm, 5/12/10

When the phone rang, Alex Marrocco thought it was a telemarketer, and so he hung up on the Army major calling to tell him his son Brendan had been badly injured in Iraq.

The call came again and this time Marrocco stayed on the line long enough to hear that his son had lost both arms and both legs to a roadside bomb. Then he collapsed on the kitchen floor.

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"As much as I thought I was ready for it, I wasn't," Alex Marrocco said, recalling how he had sent his son off to Iraq. "I gave him a big hug with the thought it could be the last time."

Alex Marrocco was at his son's bedside in Walter Reed Army Medical Center when Brendan regained consciousness. "It was during that wake up period, Marrocco said, "he lifted his arms and saw they were bandaged up and two different sizes."

Brendan had a breathing tube in his throat and so could not speak. "He kind of mouthed the words 'I have no hands' and I just nodded my head," his dad said. "He didn't flinch. He just put his arms down." A few days later Brendan figured out he had also lost both his legs.

"I'm the first quad amputee ever to survive," Brendan said to CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. "I just want to keep progressing, keep going and doing more stuff. I don't want to live a life where I just sit and do nothing with my life."

Here's what Brendan said when Martin asked him if he had regrets about what happened:

"No way. There is not a part of me that would change anything that happened. I would go back today and do the same thing all over again. I wish there was a way that I could stay in the infantry and keep fighting with my brothers. That's not going to happen, but I really wish I could. I would give everything to go back and do that."

Brendan's not alone while going through outpatient therapy at Walter Reed. His brother Michael quit his job as an IT professional at Citigroup to help take of him. "It wasn't much of a decision," said Michael. "It was just something that needed to be done."

So Michael lives in a room at Molonge House at Walter Reed with his brother now. He gets by on a daily food allowance from the government and he wouldn't be anywhere else. "I'm happy," he said, noting he'll probably be there for another year -- and probably more.

Life will never be the same for the Marrocco family. Brendan's dad Alex, his mom Michelle and his brother Michael all stand by to help in any way they can. They've started a foundation to help Brendan and other injured warriors.

There's one more character in this story of strength and love --Kate Barto, Brendan's fiancee. They met at Walter Reed.

Brendan and Kate haven't set a date yet, but he has big dreams for their wedding. He wants a glass walkway over a reflecting pool "so it looks like we're walking on water."

"To me that would be very cool," Brendan says, "and very different."

Sort of like Brendan himself.


  • Mary Walsh

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