Soldier inspires others to heal
November 14, 2008
WASHINGTON - When you ask Staff Sgt. Brian Schar how he lost his legs, he deadpans, "shark attack." His Able Troop squad leader, Staff Sgt. Christopher Howell, nods solemnly in agreement but starts to crack into laughter as Schar tries to detail the attack, giving the joke away.
Schar was the troop commander on a routine mission in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by an explosively formed penetrator, resulting in shrapnel wounds and the loss of his legs. He was twelve months and one day into his third deployment.
"Early on I knew that if I give up, the enemy wins," Schar said. Soon after Schar transferred to outpatient care at Walter Reed, he told his squad leader what his goals were, and sent his parents back home so he could do it on his own.
After months of rehabilitation that included working with model cars in occupational therapy to help mend the nerve damage in his left arm, Schar can hunt again. He now has his eyes set on joining the U.S. Army Sharp Shooter Team. He also uses a handbike for Soldier Rides and placed fourth out of 44,000 people at a marathon in his hometown of Chicago.
"Schar has really inspired other Soldiers here to meet their goals and have a good attitude along the way. Good guy, great Soldier," Howell said. "He set goals that, in my mind, are sometimes unattainable because of the injury. But, he never let it alter what he wanted. He was hit, but they didn't take him out."
The squad leader pointed to the time Schar walked into his promotion board without any assistance, just three months after he was injured. Warrior Transition Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Hartless met Schar for the first time at that board.
"He refused to come in his wheel chair. He had just got his prosthetics. He walked in on his own and reported. It was amazing. He is a motivator, coach and mentor for other Warriors and Soldiers. He gives 110 percent everyday in everything he does," Hartless said.
His primary care manager agreed. "We all look up to him," Capt. Ingrid Pacowski said. "He really pushes himself and is proactive in his recovery."
While he is lauded for setting the "highest example for all Soldiers here at WRAMC," according to Hartless, Schar points to his fellow wounded servicemembers as part of his inspiration and motivation.
"There is definitely a bond, a support system. We can sit down and talk, sometimes cry. We can all relate. When I go home to Chicago and see my friends, they don't understand. They can't relate because they don't know what it's like to see a bomb go off," he said.
"We didn't bleed together but we're healing together."
(Kristin Ellis writes for the Stripe newspaper at Walter Reed.)