HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Staff Sgt. Marcus Burleson, an explosive ordnance disposal technician and team leader with 2nd EOD Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) was awarded the General Kvinitadze medal, which is given to foreign service members who significantly contribute in the development of Republic of Georgia-foreign nation military cooperation, Feb. 3.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili presented Burleson with the award at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Burleson is recovering from injuries he sustained in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while working alongside Georgian service members.
According to the award citation, Burleson received the medal for “important contribution in developing Georgia-U.S. military cooperation, and for participation in peace-keeping operations with the Georgian Armed Forces 3rd Infantry Brigade military personnel.”
While deployed to Helmand province, Burleson provided the 31st Georgian Battalion with EOD support.
“I found and neutralized all explosive hazards encountered on the battlefield, including [improvised explosive devices], unexploded ordnance, enemy remnants of war, caches and any other explosive hazards,” said Burleson, a 31 year-old native of Odessa, Texas. “In addition, I provided support to coordinate and plan counter IED tactics.”
Burleson said working hand in hand with the Georgian service members was a positive experience.
“The Georgian soldiers are an admirable collection of hard working, motivated and mission oriented individuals,” he said.
While deployed, Burleson spent the majority of his time conducting dismounted patrols with the Georgian forces in the Upper Sangin River Valley. When Burleson was on one of these patrols, he was severely wounded in action.
“I sustained a severe brachial plexus injury to my left shoulder, rendering my left arm paralyzed,” said Burleson. “My right arm was amputated mid forearm, and I fractured my cervical spine. The vision in my left eye is lost because of a large piece of shrapnel that lodged behind [my] eye. Several bones in my face were fractured, including my jaw, which required my mouth to be banded shut for weeks. My spleen was removed due to lacerations, and I had several pieces of [shrapnel] removed from my throat.”
In addition, many of Burleson’s teeth were damaged, and he sustained a significant amount of facial burns and lacerations as well as burns and shrapnel wounds on his shoulder. Burleson also has a traumatic brain injury.
Currently, Burleson is undergoing treatment and therapy at WRNMMC.
“I am recovering as well as possible,” he said. “I have a prosthetic arm, which allows me some independence. Nerve pain is very challenging to treat, and [my doctors and I] are awaiting tests to ascertain what steps we will take with the paralyzed arm.
“The nursing staff and doctors at [Walter Reed] are dedicated and attentive; it is comforting to know that I am in the best hands possible.”
While Burleson continues to recover, he remains positive and appreciative of the things he has.
“This experience has made me incredibly grateful for my life, wife and kids,” he said. “The EOD community and Marine Corps have been compassionate and supportive during my hospitalization, and I am excited to continue healing alongside some of the bravest, strongest people I have ever met.”