The Magical Life of Merlin German

Sgt. Merlin German

For most of us Memorial Day is just a Monday off from school and work. Many Americans will take advantage of the day as an opportunity to sleep in late, have a barbecue or brave the record-high gas prices and hit the road.

What most Americans won’t be doing is keeping faith with what Memorial Day really means; honoring those who have served our country. There will be those who show up to watch the parades as they pass by. Others will go to the cemetery to lay a wreath or plant a flag for the fallen soldiers who now lies at rest.

Every day, an average of 1,800 veterans die, with an estimated 686,000 dying in 2007. They are mostly World War II veterans, but increasingly Korean and Vietnam War veterans are passing on as well.. Most with little notice and minimal fanfare.

However, most Americans will just kick back and look at Memorial Day as little more than a three-day escape from the daily grind.

There is something else worth recalling; the good people who get ground up in bad wars. From the May 25 edition of The New York Times:

“…the tactical success of the surge should not be misconstrued as making Iraq a safer place for American soldiers. Last year was the bloodiest in the five-year history of the conflict, with more than 900 dead, and last month, 52 perished, making it the bloodiest month of the year so far. So far in May, 18 have died.”

“Television network news coverage in particular has gone off a cliff. Citing numbers provided by a consultant, Andrew Tyndall, the Associated Press reported that in the months after September when Gen. David H. Petraeus testified before Congress about the surge, collective coverage dropped to four minutes a week from 30 minutes a week at the height of coverage, in September 2007.”

Four minutes a week? America is waging war in two countries and all its worth on the evening news is a lousy four minutes of coverage?

Is that how little we care about the men and women whom are fighting and dying for us?

As I write this, there have been 4,102 American soldiers killed and an estimated 30,333 wounded. Behind the abstract numbers are the names, stories, families and lives lost and dreams deferred forever of real human beings.

Real human beings like Merlin German.

What about Sgt.  German,  who while deployed in Iraq found eight improvised explosive devices but on February 21, 2005 was caught in an explosion and fire that burned 97 percent of his body. German endured over 100 operations, but finally lost his fight on April 11 following surgery to graft skin onto his lip.

Where’s his recognition? Why doesn’t every American know his story?  

Here is a snapshot of German’s life from the website created to honor The Purple Heart recipient:

Sergeant Merlin German (USMC) was born in Manhattan, New York on Nov. 15, 1985. He enlisted in the Marine Corps 08 September 2003 and received a meritorious promotion to Private First Class out of boot camp. in April 2004, Sergeant German transferred to his first permanent duty station, 5th Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division where he served as a Field Artillery Cannoneer.

Shortly after, Sergeant German was assigned to his unit, he was sent to Machine gunner’s Course. Among the Corporals and Sergeants, he was the only Private First Class to attend the course. Sergeant German’s outstanding leadership skills helped him to graduate second in his class.

In September 2004, Sergeant German’s unit was attached to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines and became part of Weapons Platoon for convoy security. His unit was charged with safely transporting prisoners and cargo, and Sgt. German participated in over 150 successful missions. Sergeant German’s Platoon Sergeant and Company Commander applauded him for his keen sense of spotting improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In the first six months of deployment, Sergeant German found 8 IEDs without anyone sustaining injuries. On 21 February 2005, Sergeant German’s squad was on a mission to recon an unknown route from Jordan to Baghdad. While en route to Camp Ramadi, Sergeant German spotted an IED while standing in the turret at his Mk-19 machine gun. With no time to alert the driver, their HUMVEE was hit on a left side by a gas-fed shape charge explosive. Sergeant German was blown clear of the vehicle, and his fellow Marines helped extinguish the flames that had quickly burned 97% of his total body surface area.

Sergeant German was immediately transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where doctors stated Sergeant German had NO chance of living. He had a quick turn-around flight to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio and he arrived on 25 February 2005. He was cared for as an inpatient for 17 months, and then resided as a guest of the Fisher House before purchasing his own home in San Antonio.

He fought bravely for more than three years but died in the hospital on Friday, Apr. 11, while recovering from his most recent operation.

We need to remember Sgt. German and all the other soldiers who have given their all or are struggling to recover from both physical and psychological wounds.

Merlin German has a website ( dedicated to his life and his dream of helping burned children. Go to the site and make a donation. Buy the t-shirt he designed or just leave a “thank you” in the guest book.

Honor the brother. It doesn’t matter if you are for or against the war. Just show a little love for a soldier, a son, and a man who gave everything for his country.

We have to remember because it’s too damn easy to forget.

(This story appeared in a different form on The Daily  on Memorial Day)

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