One man’s story of perseverance left a crowd of middle schoolers captivated.
Brandon Trapp of the Wounded Warrior Project spoke to the middle school students at P.S./M.S. 207 Rockwood Park as part of a series of monthly assemblies meant to instill different virtues in the youngsters.
The school kicked off the year last month with the topic of respect. Two kids from each grade were awarded for showing respect “above and beyond” as their classmates cheered them on.
This month’s theme, perseverance, brought former Army officer Trapp to Howard Beach to discuss his deployment overseas, a crippling injury and his journey back to normalcy.
“I liked the idea of being a team and serving something bigger than yourself,” Trapp said of his Army beginnings.
In 2010, Trapp deployed to eastern Afghanistan, a site he said was one of the most beautiful, but also the most violent.
“Somebody in our battalion was fighting with the Taliban daily,” he said.
The officer, now a medical student, then recalled the fateful attack that ultimately sent him home. A rocket landed close to him on the field, and Trapp was thrown.
“I knew we had been attacked because I saw the smoke billowing up,” he said. “For the first split second, it didn’t hurt. Then the pain came.”
Trapp later learned he had broken his back. He said at first he couldn’t feel his legs, but after a fellow soldier assured him his legs were in fact still there, he thought, “Alright, this is looking up.”
His First Sergeant put his head against Trapp’s, yelled “We love you sir,” and the officer was transferred to a hospital in Germany, then to Washington, D.C. As he awoke out of a medically induced coma, the first image he saw was the picture of his Army unit — a “screaming eagle” on a black flag, which eventually was filled with signatures of friends, family, doctors and nurses.
Trapp suffered injuries to his femur, torso, left leg and endured extensive nerve damage.
“They weren’t really sure if I’d be able to walk again,” he said.
But the screaming eagle stayed with him through physical therapy, and a little over a month later he was able to take his first steps.
“I made a goal that I wanted to take that flag up a mountain,” he said.
A year after his injury, Trapp and a team of Wounded Warriors climbed Mount Baker in Washington, and while thinking about his own injury and his fellow climbers, Trapp made it to the top.
Trapp started medical school in August and is contemplating going into trauma surgery because he feels he can thank his own doctors by “being in their shoes,” and treating patients like he once was.
To the students, Trapp advised to “be honest with yourself” and “always be focused on what you can do to make a situation better.”