When Capt. Sam Brown was injured in Afghanistan, he saw everything he had planned for his future disappear. Little did he know that what he went through, in fact, helped him discover one part of his life he thought he would never find.
"I had plans for my career and decided a few years after that I would find a beautiful woman and settle down and start a family," Brown said. "I thought that was all gone after I got injured."
In September 2008, Brown was conducting route security in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He and his Soldiers began receiving indirect fire, which quickly changed to direct fire, coming at them from different directions. As he went to help the men in the M1151 humvees in front of him, Brown entered an enemy engagement area. It was there that he was struck by an improvised explosive device.
"It was crazy for about the next 15 or 20 minutes. You know, the 1151 is on fire, I'm on fire," he said.
Brown suffered third degree burns to 30 percent of his body - mostly places his individual body armor did not cover - and lost his left index finger in the accident.
He was evacuated and, once in the United States, was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; BAMC is a level I trauma center and home to the Army Burn Center.
The doctors at the hospital began treating Brown from the moment he arrived. He began a series of surgeries to repair his charred flesh using skin grafts from other areas of his body. He said although 30 percent of his body was actually burned, about 85 percent of his body has been affected because they used skin from areas that were not burned.
"I've had 15 surgeries so far, and will have another one to gain more range of motion in my hand," Brown said. "My recovery may be up to two years away."
During his treatment, Brown was assigned a dietitian since burn victims tend to have fluctuating weight-gain after their injuries.
Enter, then 1st Lt., Amy Larsen. In November 2008, she began working with Brown during his recovery. When he was well enough to take convalescent leave, she knew it would be a problem for him to carry a multitude of supplements with him. She arranged to have them shipped to him, and called every week to make sure they arrived.
"When she'd call, I would try to make small talk with her but she was all business," Brown said.
Although both admit they had "crushes" on each other, developing any sort of relationship seemed to be at a standstill. It wasn't until Brown returned for a surgery that he talked to another physician's assistant about stopping by to say hello to her. Brown was in luck because that particular PA worked in the same office as Amy.
As a friendship developed, so did the potential for a more intimate relationship, which wasn't too far behind.
"Sam asked me to a rodeo for our first date. I had to make sure it was OK professionally to do that," she said. "We ended up going and I had a great time."
Larsen turned over Brown's care to another dietitian, and the two continued their relationship.
"We started dating in March, one month later we were engaged and we married in May," Brown explained. Amy Larsen became Amy Brown, now a captain.
"It seems fast, but we talked a lot about it. We knew God would be the center of our relationship and that was the most important thing," she explained.
Brown added that he wouldn't suggest getting married so fast unless you know it is true.
A few months following the wedding, Amy was called on to deploy to Contingency Operating Base Speicher to serve as a dietitian for most of the northern United States bases in Iraq. She left San Antonio in October, but was reunited with her husband on Dec. 28 thanks to Operation Proper Exit, a program designed to help bring closure to servicemembers seriously injured while deployed.
Even though he was injured in Afghanistan, Brown participated in the program because he said he wanted the chance to talk to troops about his experiences. He is also planning to serve as a military mentor when Operation Proper Exit is able to return wounded warriors to Afghanistan.
"I don't think I'll be putting my kit on and running around with Soldiers like I was, but I want to get back and feel productive. I want to help others and do something positive," he said.
Brown said he has come to accept that fact that the hopes he once had for his career as a Ranger may not be possible. However, the dream to settle down with a beautiful wife is one he's already reached.
Together, they will build new dreams of their own.