Thomas Campbell, a Scottish poet, once said that “the patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree.”
Little did Campbell know, almost 200 years later, how true that statement would resonate among the U.S. soldiers traveling back and forth to the Middle East. Staff Sgt. Marcus Burleson was one of those soldiers - a patriot - who ended up “nurturing that tree of Freedom” in Afghanistan...with his blood.
Burleson, who served in the Marines for more than a decade, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, where he served diffusing bombs as a member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. It was during the month of December that Burleson was working on dismantling a bomb when it exploded.
In an instant, his life changed forever. As a result, he suffered traumatic injuries, including the loss of the lower part of his right arm and vision in his left eye. His left arm was ripped out of its socket, pulling nerves from his spinal cord with it, and paralyzing it.
One can only imagine what was going through the mind of the father of three. While healing from his wounds, he experienced “excruciating pain” and later underwent what was considered a rare spinal surgery in July of 2012 at Johns Hopkins Hospital to help alleviate the pain.
The operation, according to a story by a Maryland television station WBAL TV-11, was to take bones off the back of the neck to get to his spinal cord. Then, a series of burns - very precise burns - were made in the spinal cord to get rid of the area that was causing the pain.
Following a successful surgery, and a long recovery at Walter Reed, Burleson was discharged and came home to Weatherford just weeks ago.
On Thursday, owners of Weatherford’s Furniture and More, who were grateful for his service, gave Burleson furniture to assist him with his special needs because of those missing limbs.
“The truth is, I’m grateful that somebody would fight so hard and give so much to make sure I live in a free country,” co-owner Sherrice Copeland said. “I’m thankful that I live in a community that would come together and help in a situation like this. But, most of all, I am hopeful that many will come along this young man and say, ‘We love you, we care about you.’”
Upon his arrival, Burleson, who had been home three weeks to the day, said it was “good to be home.”
“I’ve been at Walter Reed for two and a half years; a long time,” Burleson said.
Of his wounds, he said that it took that long to “make him pretty again.”
“Scars are character,” he joked. “It’s like a pickup truck - you can’t have a pretty pickup truck, its got to have some scratches on it.”
In that same vein of gratitude for Burleson’s service, Deborah Carney with CyberHorse Construction has for more than a month been retrofitting Burleson’s parents’ home to make it more “user friendly,” commensurate to Burleson’s physical needs.
Carney received a call from the Spirit of a Hero foundation asking her help. Along with Home Depot and Lowe’s, to name a few, a group has been working to create more space for Burleson, which involved making two rooms into just one, installation of a new tile floor and custom items such as a shower door, adjustable mirrors and a bidet to help him with his daily needs.
“He has a great outlook,” Carney said. “I’ve grown very close to him...you can’t not. Most of the volunteers, when I told them about this, didn’t hesitate for a second.”
She said they have adapted everything for Burleson.
“I’m so honored and blessed to be able to do this - it just warms my heart,” Carney added. “I just wish I had financial stability to do more than I have.”