US Marine Sgt. John Stanz
BUFFALO, NY - "He's really come a long way," mused John Stanz, as stood on the tarmac at Prior Aviation on Wednesday afternoon, awaiting the arrival of an aircraft carrying his son, Marine Staff Sgt. John Stanz.
Sgt. Stanz was being flown by Wings Flights of Hope
from Johnstown, PA where he's spent the past month and a half at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
On August 15, 2009 15 during his third tour of duty, Sgt. Stanz was wounded for a second time when a road side bomb exploded near his humvee in Afghanistan.
Two of his comrades were killed and Stanz barely survived, spending 36 days in a coma.
His father's words to WGRZ-TV were prophetic when Sgt. Stanz climbed unassisted from the cockpit of the small plane, and strode briskly toward his father.
A casual observer might never have guessed that 15 months ago doctors predicted Stanz might never be able to feed himself , let alone walk again.
"Physical therapy, vocational therapy, speech therapy...I get all the therapies you could name," Sgt. Stanz told 2 On Your Side, in describing his daily routine in Johnstown.
"Basically they're taking from when you were a baby and trying to build you back up to the age you actually are in a much shorter amount of time. I can remember things better and everything is improving vastly," Sgt. Stanz said.
So too is his body.
Physically, Stanz today appears in stark contrast to how he looked just under a year ago, when he struggled to walk without assistance.
"I can now run three miles. I mean, not in very good time...but that should come," he said.
Stanz's next big step comes at the end of the month, when he will travel to Camp Legeune, SC, to appear before a Marine Corps medical board.
"They'll decide from there whether or not I'll be able to re-enlist back to full duty or what my options are. I mean, I could
become a trainer or teach shooting. I'm a swim instructor, so I could do that too," said Stanz, in explaining his possible future service in the Marine Corps.
But none of those options represent his true goal.
"I'd like to go back to full duty and ship over to the other side again. It's better that I go than my nephews or nieces or anyone else. I'd rather it be me getting blown up over there than anybody getting blown up over here," he said.
For now, though, Sgt. Stanz is a marine on a different sort of mission entirely.
He made this trip home in order to serve as best man at his brother's wedding this weekend.
"I've been practicing my toast," he said with a smile, before getting into his dad's vehicle and heading to his family's home in Hamburg.
Click on the video icon to watch the story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden.