General Miracles May 20, 2009
Audience Development Group
When you join the 101st Airborne, you buy the package: membership in the historic air assault group known as The Screaming Eagles, a piece of time-present, time-past. You also accept great risk. The 101st was not created to pacify but instead to run head-long into harm’s way, so someone else won’t have to. There is no in-between for an Eagle; only commitment and consequence.
Lieutenant Brian Brennan ran headlong into disaster in Afghanistan when his team triggered a roadside bomb killing three Eagles, while destroying Brennan’s lower legs and damaging his brain; creating acute trauma that left little hope for recovery. Mother Joanne reflects, “He didn’t wake up. That’s what scared us the most. They told us on a scale of 1 to10, his chances were a one.” In the recesses of your darkest fear, these are words you hope never to hear about a son or daughter, or anyone at all.
Suspended there between life and death one day last June, Brennan had a surprise visit from General David Petraeus, who once commanded the 101st. “It was a very grim situation…a very tough one,” said the general. As he took his position at Lt. Brennan’s bedside he tried the usual words and phrases that might cut through: “Hang tough big guy. Your troopers need you.” But rank had no privilege; Petraeus’ stars held no magic. There was in fact, no response at all from the fallen Eagle. CBS reporter David Martin later asked the general, “Did you feel any hope?” “Not really,” said Petraeus.
As Petraeus turned to leave the room, something inspired him to try again. The general decided to shout “Currihee!” Correct: Currihee! It’s a Native American word that was the motto for the famous Band of Brothers Regiment in the 101st. “I shouted one-two-three Currihee,” said Petraeus. Suddenly, Brennan sort of sat up in bed as best he could. Mother Joanne felt it was if the Lieutenant was saying, “Hey, I’m in here!” Concurrent to Brennan’s awakening, his body began to move under the sheets, and his head was moving around, clearly responding to his unit’s nickname. From down the hall, medical staff came racing, shouting, “We heard, we heard!” For weeks where there had been a vacuum of darkness, the young officer sprang to life when he heard the nickname that mattered most.
In reporting this story, David Martin remembers Brennan saying in the days that followed, “That name was always in the back of my mind.” The reporter quipped, “And then it came to the front.” And, as often happens in the midst of a miracle, there were more miracles. Last week General Petraeus introduced Lt. Brennan as the unsung hero of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. As Brennan walked across the stage, the euphoric audience chorused, “One-two-three, Currihee!”
From comatose and considered irretrievable, to hero basking in a standing ovation, Brennan asked the audience if they knew what “Currihee” meant in Native American tongue.
It means “stand alone.” Do you believe in miracles?
Audience Development Group