Look at Brian Dunn, and you see the “USMC” tattoo across his arm, the Marine haircut and his flashing eyes when the talk is about bombers that he spent so long fighting and yes – killing – in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Bombers that almost killed him, too. “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” says Dunn, like countless Marines have said because it is what Marines say, and it happens to be true – even when the Marine is not active anymore.
Dunn is fighting to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for artificial disc replacement surgery in Germany. Back surgery, he says, could give him a normal life again. But that surgery is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so the VA will not pay for it. Brian Dunn is medically retired and disabled. A roadside bomb blew up the Humvee in which he was the turret gunner on May 9, 2005. The bomb killed his best friend and knocked the Humvee on top of Dunn. He probably should be dead.
But he is alive. He survived compression fractures in his back, busted eardrums, a broken jaw, wounds to his legs, a torn rotator cuff. He has Marine Corps commendations and a Purple Heart, but his body and mind are not the same as they were before he went to Iraq.
Dunn has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from the bombing. When he came back from Iraq, Dunn was just 22, wondering what he would do with the rest of his life. He had enlisted in the Corps straight out of high school. He had never done anything else. He never wanted to.
Dunn is fighting with the help of a Marine captain named Charlie Hall, who is originally from York.