Fort Bragg Soldier survives accident against all odds
July 30, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It was September 2009 and Sgt. Jeremy Muncert was on top of the world, true Soldier-style. Selected from an elite group of Army candidates, Muncert competed in the 13th annual Warfighter Competition, a strenuous string of mental and physical tasks meant to make or break the 34 three-man teams. Losing his sergeant to a torn tendon on the first exercise, Muncert and the remaining teammate decided to complete their 3-day competition.
From a cross-country run in advanced combat uniforms to battlefield-simulated medical emergencies, to a live-fire exercise and completion of a demanding obstacle course, the 12 events tested the best of military police, corrections specialists and criminal investigation special agents.
At 25 years of age, weighing 207 pounds with 2-percent body fat, Muncert dominated a number of competitions. For a Soldier who claimed to score over 400 on the Army physical fitness scale, Muncert marched to a different battle call.
"The competition was just like war, but with Americans. They knew what you were going to do so you had to be a lot more creative," noted Muncert.
"The last event was a 16-mile road march," said Lt. Col. Ross Guieb, commander of the 728th Military Police Battalion, Schoefield Barracks, Hawaii. "Sergeant Muncert stepped in some holes in the rugged terrain and broke his foot early on, but still continued to the end."
Muncert's team finished 11th despite the broken foot, but a technicality (each team must finish with three Soldiers) led to disqualification. Their tenacity earned Muncert's team a Sergeant First Class Timothy Nien Award, in honor of their determination.
"They had the heart of true Warriors," said Guieb.
Days after returning from the competition, Muncert's sport utility vehicle, driven by his
squad leader, plowed into a metal, three-foot wide utility pole. First responders arrived to a grisly scene - the driver, asleep, flooring the gas pedal, while metal bore into Muncert's head. His seat, pushed to the third row by the impact, was crushed. Blood poured from his face and his right leg was broken in 15 places. Muncert died in the vehicle. He would be revived and flatline two more times in the hospital.
Perched in a deer stand near his home in Cary, N.C.,
Muncert's father, Jeff, said, "I looked at my phone and it was an 808, a Hawaii area code, but it wasn't Jeremy's number so I didn't think anything of it. I just put the phone back."
Sue Muncert, his mother, recounted the emotional experience, "The phone call was at seven o'clock at night and we were on the plane at six o'clock the next morning. You feel helpless. We needed to be there."
Muncert remained in a coma for 20 days at Queens Medical Center in Hawaii. When he woke up, the Army transferred him to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, before air evacuating him to Hunter Holmes McGuire Polytrauma Center in Richmond, Va.
"Whatever they said I wouldn't give up," said Sue. The Family stayed by Muncert's side during the process, speaking to him and sharing words of encouragement.
Muncert's memory of the time period surrounding the accident was erased, and he'd lost 90 pounds while in a coma. Some of Muncert's doctors attributed his survival to the intense training in preparation for the MP Warfighter's Competition. Muncert's 'super Soldier' lifestyle enabled him to keep fighting, this time for his life.
Learning to eat, talk and walk again became a full-time job. According to Muncert, it became a process of, "Can you say this word' You can't' Well, try it. That's your homework."
The accident resulted in traumatic brain injury, diffused axonal injury (shearing of the brain stem), headaches, left eye blindness with facial paralysis, 25 percent blindness in the right eye and other injuries. Muncert beat all the odds, recovering faster and better than doctors predicted.
Determined to make rank, Muncert studied for his promotion board and became a sergeant in May, just months after awakening from a coma. Lieutenant Col. Terence S. McDowell, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion, presented Muncert with a first issue Fort Bragg WTU coin and a plaque of the NCO Creed.
"When he sets his mind to do something, as he's done in this healing process, he's committed and gives it his all," said Jeff, who was honored to pin his son with the rank of sergeant.
"He was always extremely physically fit, even while we were deployed to a small remote FOB (forward operating base,)" said Capt. Frank Dennis, company commander, U.S. Army Military Police School, who completed a 15-month tour in Iraq with Muncert.
"I requested to deploy," noted Muncert. "By me going, it kept one other Soldier home with his Family."
Dennis also praised Jeff and Sue's desire to meet with Muncert's brigade just days after the accident. He said, "(It took) courage to leave Jeremy's bedside. They felt the overwhelming urge to try and save at least one other Soldier from making the tragic mistake of getting into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking."
For Muncert, the tragedy is steadily becoming a thing of the past. He hopes to start a Family of his own some day, complete with worldwide travel to places like Ireland, Australia and Germany. It's the perfect future for a Soldier transitioning to civilian life and, like so many achievements before, he'll do it on his own merit.
"I'd like to go back to college and finish my degree and try to get a job with the FBI; or I'm going straight back to Hawaii, open up a Bojangles and become a millionaire," he joked.