Cpl. Justin Gaertner
Marine Corporal Justin Gaertner was on his third deployment when he lost both of his legs above the knees, and suffered severe damage to his left arm in an IED blast in Marjah, Afghanistan on November 26, 2010. While on a routine route clearance mission, Cpl. Gaertner, a Combat Engineer, was in the third vehicle of a convoy when the vehicle ahead hit an IED. While evacuating an injured Marine from the vehicle, and conducting secondary sweeps of the area, Cpl. Gaertner found the pressure plate that had triggered the explosion. Continuing his sweep of the area, Cpl. Gaertner watched helplessly as his best friend was blown up directly in front of him when another IED was triggered. Being the only person on-site with a mine detector, Cpl. Gaertner began sweeping an area for a Landing Zone for the MEDEVAC helicopter that would airlift the seriously injured Marines to safety; within minutes, a third bomb, a buried IED, soon took both of his legs as well. With both legs traumatically amputated, his left arm shattered, and an 8” piece of glass lodged in his abdomen, Cpl. Gaertner did not realize he had been hit until he tried to get up to provide security and search for any injured. Lifesaving measures at the scene readied Cpl. Gaertner and the other injured Marines, all having suffered traumatic amputations to both of their legs, for transport. Airlifted to Camp Dwyer and then to Bagram Air Force Base, Cpl. Gaertner would next travel to Landstuhl, Germany before arriving in Bethesda, Maryland where he remains today at the newly renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; Justin continues his treatments and therapies there at this time.
Cpl Gaertner enjoys competitive sports and finds that he most enjoys the challenge to try a new sport when someone tells him he “cannot” do something! Mono-skiing, surfing, snorkeling, sky diving, running track, fishing, and hunting are all at the top of his hobbies and interests list. Currently involved in an internship program with the National Counter Terrorism Agency, Justin hopes to work at the Agency after he retires from the Marine Corps. He looks forward to living near his family and living in the area where he spent his school years; an accessible home that will allow him to regain his independence at home will be a dream come true. He says, “I would like to say, “thank you” to all those who support Homes for Our Troops and give severely injured veterans the chance to live in homes that will accommodate their needs. You have no idea how much this means to us.”
Click here to visit Justin's personal photo gallery (Coming Soon)