Brent Whitten’s wife soon became known as the waitress whose husband calls from Iraq.
Brent and Rachel married a week after graduating high school in Topeka, Kansas. A week later, he reported for basic training.
“My wife was signed up to be in the reserves,” says Brent. “But after dropping her off for her final MEPS (Medical Entrance Processing Station), she called back and said she wasn’t going anywhere – she was pregnant.”
The newlywed recruit and father-to-be was thankful. He knew his wife would be safe at home, and his son wouldn’t have to miss his father being away.
“It strengthened my resolve to do my duty, to defend my country, and to protect my family.”
A specialist with the U.S. Army 3-67 Armor Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Brent deployed to Baghdad in December 2005.
Daily patrols that sometimes lasted up to 12 hours became Brent’s routine for nine months. After that, he was chosen for a new assignment – a gunner on a commander’s Humvee.
But the new job ended up lasting only a few days.
“I remember being in the Humvee, and all of a sudden my whole body was on fire.”
A suicide bomber driving a van crashed into the side of the Humvee, detonating an explosion that killed three civilians.
“Everything was on fire,” recalls Brent. “I was burning, but I couldn’t move. I had to look down and make sure my leg was still there. I crawled out of the Humvee and rolled off to the ground just as the ammo started to explode.”
Brent had a broken pelvis and tissue damage to his leg. He couldn’t get up, so he rolled away from the fire until he hit a curb. He says he doesn’t know who came to his rescue. He only remembers being put into the back of another Humvee and driven out of there. The convoy took him to a Baghdad hospital, where Brent was treated and eventually allowed to call his wife.
Rachel was always thrilled when Brent called, even as she awoke to take the call at 2 a.m.
But her joy turned to tears when Rachel answered and Brent said, “It looks like I’ll be coming home early. I got injured.”
Brent recalls not wanting his wife to be sad: “I told her I would call back in an hour, and I wanted her to be composed. I did, and she was. We knew it was one of those things we’d have to get over.”
He was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, and treated by their dedicated burn unit for two months. He says throughout his time at BAMC, he wore the clothing he received in a backpack from Wounded Warrior Project®.
“When I think of my recovery, my message to other Wounded Warriors is this: Your recovery is your new mission. You have to get victory. You’re still a soldier, so you have an obligation not to surrender. Your family is counting on you.”
Today Brent is enrolled at the University of Kansas, and he’s studying broadcasting.
“I want to use what I learn and my experiences to help people. The most important thing to me is standing up for what is right and raising a good family.”