Saturday, July 28, 2007

City block named after injured former Marine

SSGT Mark Graunke Jr. pictured on Veteran's Day 2004 at the Dallas City Hall with Houston James, a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jul 27, 2007 13:36:37 EDT

A city block in Dallas was named after a former Marine whose body was ripped apart four years ago when a bomb he was attempting to defuse in Iraq exploded in his hands.

Mark Graunke Jr., a staff sergeant at the time, survived the July 2003 blast but lost his left eye, his left hand and the thumb and index finger of his right hand.

Even after the initial trauma, he had to make a tough decision. His right leg wasn’t responding to treatment, causing him extreme pain, so he told doctors to amputate it, he said.

Now, he is trying to provide encouragement to other Marines injured in the war and ensure they are not forgotten by the public, he said.

“It’s important that people pick up some slack and do right by the families for servicemen that come back injured and some who don’t come back and help with their families too,” he said.

A Dallas builder, Brandenburg Homes, will construct 16 homes on the block, now known as the Mark Graunke Jr. Addition. The builder will donate $3,000 for each home sold, divided equally between three charities Graunke selected — the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Fisher House and the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, all of which helped him recover from his injuries, he said.

Graunke’s mother, Maggie Brown, had been Brandenburg’s construction manager for the past five years and spoke with the company’s president, Terry Gatson, about making the dedication and the charitable donations in her son’s name.

“Mark has been such an inspiration for so many people. He’s done so much to help so many people,” said Brown about her son’s work speaking to wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The Graunke family made a special request for Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin Luster to fly in from Bethesda, Md., for Thursday night’s dedication ceremony because he had helped Graunke through his recovery.

Though Graunke was quarantined at Walter Reed — restricted to seeing only family members because he had bacteria from the combat zone on his body — Luster ignored the warnings and came into the room to cut Graunke’s hair, Brown said.

“He just didn’t care if he got bugs,” Brown said. “He is quite an exceptional Marine. It was so important to Mark even then to be up to Marine standards.”

Just before he left for the ceremony, Graunke said in a telephone interview that he typically didn’t like all of the extra attention, but it was vital to get the word out about other Marines in his situation.

“I usually don’t like to talk at these events, but tonight I will because it’s important to maintain awareness,” he said.

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