It's been almost a decade since an improvised explosive device knocked Brandon Davis unconscious in Fallujah, imparting a brain injury that would eventually lead to a medical discharge.
A little more than nine years later, the Highlands Ranch High School security staffer was finally awarded a Purple Heart that he has been seeking for years.
“I had to jump through a few hoops to get this,” Davis said. The lance corporal said he worked with his former colonel with the Wounded Warrior Regiment to apply for the award. “It means a lot.”
The Purple Heart is awarded to military members who are injured or killed while serving. It is the oldest military decoration awarded by the U.S. military.
Davis, 30, said he grew up dreaming of enlisting with the Marines, like his father. He joined when he was 19 in 2003, bypassing an opportunity to go to school.
“I gave up wrestling scholarships to enlist,” Davis said. “After 9/11, I knew I was going to join. It just didn't seem like there was another option for me.”
The former Marine was deployed to Iraq from June 24, 2004 to Feb. 17, 2005. On Oct. 17, 2004, Davis was driving a Hummer near a military base in Fallujah when the IED launched by insurgents hit the back of the vehicle. The resulting blast damaged the left side of his head and he sustained a traumatic brain injury.
After a few minutes of being unconscious, Davis' platoon mates shook him awake before they tended to others who were wounded, including some who lost limbs, he said.
There were six people wounded in the blast, according to Davis.
Davis finished out his deployment, although he was medically separated, and was eventually honorably discharged for medical reasons in 2006. Eventually, he ended up working security at Highlands Ranch High School.
Like many military members after deployment, Davis, who specialized in motor transport and also trained as a scout sniper, found that his training did not translate to the civilian world.
“The qualifications don't transfer, and if they do, I haven't met anyone who has (benefitted from it),” Davis said, adding that other military acquaintances have not had much luck finding jobs with police or fire departments.
In the months that followed the explosion, Davis said he dealt with memory loss and ringing in his ears on top of shoulder and back injuries. Despite that, he said he would enlist again given the chance.
“Other than that, it hasn't really affected me,” Davis said. “I don't regret any of it.”