26 May, 2007

Cooper Brannan: Padres and Purple Hearts

I wrote about wounded Iraq Veteran Cooper Brannan when he signed with the very pro-military Padres, then went looking for more info about him this morning and found some great profiles.

But first, the latest news. Brannan has apparently been impressing the Padres enough that they're spending some extra time with him:

...Pitcher Cooper Brannan, the Marine who served two tours in Iraq, will most likely remain in extended spring training along with 30-40 others who won't be assigned to teams to open the season. The camp runs through June 2.

And lest you think this a publicity stunt...

"This is about the military," said San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson, a former first lieutenant in the Marines and the man responsible for Brannan being a Padre. "This is about all Iraq veterans. This is about people who are wounded. This is a story that makes everybody feel good. And it's predicated on the fact that he can actually throw the baseball. [...]

And yet the Padres know Brannan is different, that he slips his ring finger in the glove hole made for the pinky and adjusts the rest of his fingers accordingly, that sometimes he'll go to grip a water bottle and it'll slip out of his hand, that nightmares occasionally stun him awake.

He should be a firefighter. That's what Brannan thinks sometimes. That was the plan upon his discharge. He would serve the public like his father, Linwood, a police officer.

"Your job," said Lindsay Brannan, Cooper's wife, "is playing baseball." [...]

"It's not so much if I make it [to the big leagues]," Brannan said. "It's when I make it."

Yup. As Brannan exchanges one uniform for the other, it's clear he's a typical "former" Marine: USMC through and through.

I was down in the dumps for a little bit [after being injured], I really was. But when I started coming around and working harder at occupational therapy, I saw one of these guys come by in a wheelchair and it about killed me. He had both of his legs missing and he was the happiest guy I've ever met. After that, I couldn't believe how selfish I was acting. I've got four fingers still left, and I lost a pinky--I lost a pinky! I hope that everyone can kind of feed off of that and feel how lucky they are. [...]

For everyone out there who's down in the dumps, whether it's a military man or anybody that's gone through any kind of pain and suffering, I hope they really learn from this, that you can pick up and strive to do better and fulfill your dreams.

[Interviewer]: Now that you're starting your second career, have you ever thought, "What if I'd reached back for that grenade with your right hand?"

Brannan: I would've done what the Marine corps taught me: adapt and overcome. I would've tried working with my left arm to try to become one of those goofy lefties.

The more I hear of this man, the more impressed I am. Read the whole interview; it covers everything from sandlot Wiffleball in Iraq to brothers laid to rest and how the warfighters feel about their mission. And he's inspiring his fellow Marines still in the fight, too.