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NASA Astronauts Honor U.S. Army Veteran Seriously Wounded in Iraq During Ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

NASA Astronauts Honor U.S. Army Veteran Seriously Wounded in Iraq
Ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex salutes Sgt. Russ Marek for his sacrifice
Editor’s Note:
Click here to download hi-def .mov Broll of Sgt. Marek and NASA astronauts including sound bites

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2014) – KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – In the spirit of Veterans Day, NASA astronauts recently gathered at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to honor Sgt. Russ Marek, a U.S. Army veteran who lost an arm and a leg and suffered a severe brain injury in Iraq in 2005.
During a brief ceremony, Sgt. Marek received a leather jacket signed by more than 30 astronauts to thank him for his patriotism, service and sacrifice on behalf of his country. He also toured the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Visitor Complex with his family and led by the astronauts and Jim Kennedy, former Kennedy Space Center director.
Former astronauts and veterans who participated in the salute to Sgt. Marek included:

  • Jon McBride, Captain, Navy, Ret.
  • Bob Springer, Colonel, Marine Corps, Ret.
  • Brian Duffy, Colonel, Air Force, Ret.
  • Bruce Melnick, Commander, Coast Guard, Ret.
  • Bill McQuade, Colonel, Army Reserves and aerospace technologist, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Former Kennedy Space Center director Jim Kennedy, Air Force, who talks about his first meeting in 2006 with Sgt. Marek in the video here

Noting the military background of the participating astronauts, Brian Duffy said, “The military has played a big role in NASA and NASA has played a big role in the military as well.” In comparing Marek’s service to that of the astronauts, Duffy commented, “We were doing our job as part of a team, but no one was shooting at us. Riding a rocket into space isn’t in the same league.”
The military and NASA also link in technology that has been utilized in Sgt. Marek’s recovery. NASA technology enabled the chip that helps control Sgt. Marek’s prosthetic arm and “space blankets” were used to keep his temperature regulated at the scene of his life-threatening injuries.
image_10-7404127Sgt. Marek was 34 when he wounded during his second tour of Iraq in September 2005. An Improvised Explosive Device detonated under his tank and two of Marek’s four crew members died. Sgt. Marek sustained massive, life changing injuries, losing his dominant limbs (lower right leg and right forearm) and suffering a severe closed head brain injury, which shut down all function on his left side, technically rendering him a quadriplegic. He also sustained third degree burns to more than 20 percent of his body and lost his right ear and left thumb. Sgt. Marek spent the next 13 weeks in a coma and then began a grueling rehabilitation and recovery that continues today.
“I’ve had a lot of moving experiences in my life but I don’t think there’s anything more moving than to be with a veteran and particularly a veteran who almost lost his life,” said McBride.
“They honored me – I really can’t say too much. I feel it’s a heartwarming thing,” Sgt. Marek said.
“Veterans Day is a day to be reminded. Thank a veteran, thank them for what they do,” said Duffy.