By Elisha Harig-Blaine
In December 2011, while on patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, Marine Lance Corporal Christian Brown stepped on an explosive device that took both of his legs, one above the knee and the other below his hip, as well as a part of his right index finger. Hours later, in an acute care facility in Germany, a member of his church from Munford, TN was already by his side. It would be an early indication that the citizens of Munford, with the support of the city’s leaders, would play an important role in LCpl. Brown’s recovery process.
After learning of LCpl. Brown’s injuries, Munford Mayor Dwayne Cole notified members of the church that he and LCpl. Brown had attended for years. A church member was living in Germany with her husband, who was stationed at the same base where “CB,” as he is known to family and friends, was being treated. After hearing the news, she came to his bedside and was able to be with him until his family arrived from Tennessee.
Word of LCpl. Brown’s injuries spread quickly in Munford, a town of approximately 6,000 about 25 miles north of Memphis. Mayor Cole was approached by people with a desire to do something for the Marine and his family. He quickly realized that the best way he could help was to allow police, fire, and public works staff to help support local fundraising efforts.
In March 2012, town members organized a benefit motorcycle ride from just outside Memphis to Munford. Nearly 1,000 motorcyclists participated and the event raised almost $20,000. Several months later in September, a local high school football team’s booster club sponsored the “Christian Brown Benefit Bowl,” which raised about $8,000. The event featured a game with the rival local high school as well as the Marine Corps color guard with the high school marching band. LCpl. Brown was planning to attend the event, but flight delays resulted in him not arriving until nearly 3am. Despite this delay, the crowd remained until his arrival to make sure he received a warm welcome home from hundreds of people.
“This community has been incredible,” said Mayor Cole. “We’ve had people step into leadership roles and coordinate fundraising efforts on their own. As a city, we’ve provided help in terms of event assistance, but the community has stepped forward and really led the way.”
A local painting and construction company volunteered to retrofit and enclose the garage of the LCpl.’s family home with double doors, install plumbing for a new bathroom in the garage, and build a ramp off the back of the house. In addition, the Semper Fi Fund has spent almost $13,000 to help LCpl. Brown with the short and medium-term home modifications needed to allow him to stay at home when possible during his rehabilitation process. The home modifications have included widening three bedroom and three bathroom doors, repainting, replacing carpeting with laminate flooring to allow wheelchair mobility, installing a new shower, toilet and sink as well as installing railings and lowering countertops and door knobs.
Thanks to all the community support, LCpl. Brown has been able to preserve the federal benefits available to him for home modifications. He has a maximum lifetime benefit of up to $65,000, and delaying the use of those funds will allow him to use them for additional repairs on his current home or on a future home that may provide more of a permanent residence.
“The ability of the community to come together during all of this has been a big help to us,” said Lyn, LCpl. Brown’s mother. “We’ve put our trust into this community and it feels good to be able to do that and know they are there with us.”
“We couldn’t ask to be from a better community,” said LCpl. Brown. “I am very thankful for all the support people continue to show me. I’m looking forward to being home with everyone as soon as possible.”
“We were always proud of CB, but we are more so than ever as we see how he’s facing all of this,” continued Mayor Cole. “Munford has really shown that everyone can do something and as Mayor, helping to create the space that has allowed my citizens to serve one of their own has been incredibly gratifying.”
Details: For more information about how local officials can help meet the needs of disabled veterans, visit NLC's Housing Rehabilitation for Veterans with Disabilities page.