by Kevin Tate | Vice President of Media Productions
Marine Cpl. Christian Brown, of Mumford, Tenn., grew up in the outdoors and learned his earliest life lessons while following his father through the woods. Nature’s greatest rewards didn’t come to his attention, though, until he returned years later, missing his legs and looking for the person he had been.
“Before my injury, hunting was my identity,” Brown said. “It was how I communicated with my father. He was passionate about it. Hunting was my inlet to spending time with my dad and learning who he was. It was a chance to form a bond with him and have him be proud of me, for taking an interest in what he loved to do. That was how hunting started out for me.
“After my injury, hunting was a path to get back to that identity. Having the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan, with the loss of my legs and being a bi-lateral amputee, the scars that come with it and the things you can’t see that are on the inside, I really lost myself in those moments that I was alone. I really needed that back and I didn’t know how to receive that. I tried other things. I tried sports, therapy, therapists, and nothing really seemed to work for me. I had that anger inside me, still. I wanted to be a Marine, I wanted to be that individual, but things had changed.
“For me, when I got back out in the woods and I was successful again and harvested an animal, that was when I found my true self. I shined in that moment and smiled again for the first time. I felt something had been restored, given back to me.”
Twelve days before Christmas in 2011, Brown was leading his squad on a patrol when he stepped on an in-place improvised explosive device. He ultimately lost both of his legs high above the knee.
“The recovery process, when you sustain injuries of that magnitude, it’s pretty tough,” he said. “Each man has his own battle. You cannot judge one versus the other. Everybody’s injuries are the same, but so different. For me, it was a mental battle. I was really fighting myself because I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror, the thought of not being able to do the things I wanted to do anymore. You can get all kinds of medication that’s supposed to fix this or supposed to fix that but, in the end, you’ve got to be self-reliant. You’ve got to heal yourself, and I was having trouble doing that.
Hunting for health
“When I developed a passion for turkey hunting it was after my injuries. For me, I just went hard after it. I loved it. I loved everything about it. Hunting is how I keep myself healthy now, and it really keeps me going. You get to see the show, see the woods come alive and hear the gobbles.
“I set goals for myself, something I can strive for. Last year, the goal was to shoot more turkeys than I did in the previous year. This year, the goal was to shoot a bird in a different state. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I can set a new goal, and that new goal will keep me through my injuries for tomorrow.
“For me, it’s very important that I’ve been given a second chance. It would be a severe injustice to guys who would trade places with me right now, who would give anything for another day, even if it was an impaired day, like me sitting in this wheelchair right now, if I didn’t make the best of it, so I just live it the best that I can and I strive daily to fight those feelings of depression, fight those thoughts of feeling sorry for myself, and I just put my time and effort in and when I’m successful in the woods that’s what uplifts me and makes me think of those guys. It took me a long time to realize and understand that dynamic of what I’m going through in this life.
“When I really, truly got that understanding, knowing I had the ability to change things, the ability to keep going and do things I’d never done before, I really honor my guys by doing that, because there are guys who lost their lives who’ll never have that next day, that next wake up, that next gobble on the roost. Those are things they’ll never get to experience, so those are things that I honor them with.”