Sean Carroll is pretty much like any other 29-year-old you might come across. He’s proud of his car (he owns a Mustang), he enjoys the outdoors (hunting and hiking), and he’s working on returning to school (Metro State in Denver).
Except most 29-year-olds you might come across won’t be former Marines who spent three months in a coma after being hurled 30 feet by an IED (improvised explosive device) blast in Ramadi, Iraq.
Born in 1984 in Bakersfield, California, Sean moved to Idaho Springs, Colorado, when he was in fourth grade. His dad was a medic in the Army, his great uncle served in Korea, and his maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were both Marines. So it was continuing something of a family tradition when Sean joined the Marines’ DEP (delayed entry program) when he was a junior in high school.
About two weeks after graduating high school, Sean started his basic training at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego. He became a member of 2/4 based out of Camp Pendleton, California – the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, nicknamed the “Magnificent Bastards.”
On Valentine’s Day 2004, Sean (now a Lance Corporal) and the rest of 2/4 deployed to Ramadi, the capital city of the Anbar Province in central Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “My job was grunt infantry,” Sean says of his first deployment. “I carried a SAW, a squad automatic weapon.”
Less than six weeks later, Sean was on patrol in Ramadi when his fellow 2/4 member, Lt. Ben Kaler, was injured by an IED. Sean helped pull him to safety. It was a grim foreshadowing of what he would soon experience firsthand.
“I was wounded on March 25,” Sean continues. “An IED went off about 10 feet away. I was blown about 20 feet in the air and 30 feet across the street. My right leg was gone. [It was subsequently amputated above the knee.] I was flown to Baghdad and then to Landstuhl [Regional Medical Center in Germany]. I was really messed up. They gave me a 10-15 percent chance of surviving.
“They got me to Bethesda [Naval Hospital], where I remained in ICU in a coma. The heat and debris from the IED blast meant I needed skin grafts over about 60 percent of my body. Then, a month or two after I woke up from the coma, they needed to amputate my left thumb and index finger or else I’d lose my entire arm. Some sort of fungus or bacteria was eating away at my bone – they said it was basically turned to mush.”
Approximately six months after waking from the coma, Sean was upgraded to outpatient status. It was around this time that he began to get to know people involved with the Semper Fi Fund. “They would come to Walter Reed, see what we needed, and give us checks to pay our bills,” Sean recalls. “Money to help with finances, to try to get out of debt.”
Discharged from the Marines in 2006, Sean now lives in Colorado. He’s been focused on returning to school and hopes to study green energy and sustainable living.
“Looking back on all this, I kind of see it as a blessing in disguise,” Sean says. “It taught me a lot. I have more of an open mind about things. Whether it’s being in Iraq or dealing with people here—most people just want to come home at the end of the day, have a job tomorrow, look after their kids, that kind of thing.
“The more you think people are different, the more people turn out the same—so don’t be too quick to judge; you never know why people are the way they are.”