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Southwest Florida shows support for wounded Marine

Apr. 18, 2013
Southwest Florida welcomes injured Marine
Southwest Florida welcomes injured Marine: Corporal Christian Brown takes a break from Walter Reed Medical Center to soak up some Florida sun. Video by Marisa Kendall/
Fort Myers Councilman Tom Leonardo welcomes Cpl. Christian Brown to Fort Myers. / Jack Hardman/
Students of the Sanibel School cheer for Corporal Christian Brown as he and his police escort pass on Thursday. / Jack Hardman/

If you go

What: Corporal Christian Brown will be grand marshal of a parade in his honor. All are welcome to attend and show support.
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: The route starts at Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort and Marina, 15107 Captiva Drive, Captiva Island.


Spontaneous applause broke out in the D terminal of Southwest Florida International Airport on Thursday, as travelers welcomed a man they had never met and whose story they didn’t know.

Marine Cpl. Christian Brown made his way down the hall in a wheelchair.

“Thank you,” a stranger said as Brown passed.

Brown, who lost his legs in 2011 to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, is in Southwest Florida for a six-day vacation from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Operation Open Arms, a Florida charity serving veterans and their families, arranged the free vacation for Brown and his mother.

Wearing a T-shirt and sunglasses, Brown was ready for a vacation. It’s good to get out of the hospital — to be able to see sunlight and grass, he said.

“You can only stare at those four walls for so long before bad thoughts start to happen,” Brown said. “Basically, to feel that normality that you need, you need to get out and engage in the things that you used to do before.”

A Tennessee native, Brown had never been to Southwest Florida. His schedule for the next few days, while he’s enjoying free lodging on Captiva Island, includes fishing, hunting, a barbeque and a parade in his honor.

“Basically what we’re going to give him is anything he wants from Thursday to Tuesday,” said Capt. John Bunch of Operation Open Arms.

Plans for Brown’s vacation started when Fort Myers City Councilman Thomas Leonardo saw a Washington Post article about the Marine. Brown made national news last year after passengers complained he received rude treatment aboard a Delta Air Lines flight. A flight attendant clumsily wheeled Brown to the back of the plane, parading him past other passengers and humiliating him, according to the Post article.

Leonardo contacted Bunch, and the two decided to do something to replace Brown’s bad memory of that flight with a positive one. At Leonardo’s request, Mayor Randy Henderson declared Thursday as Corporal Christian Brown and Lance Corporal Jonathan Carnes day. Carnes, a friend of Brown, was invited to Southwest Florida but was unable to come.

Brown was touched by the support. Several Southwest Florida groups contributed to his vacation, including the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Sanibel School, Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort and Marina on Captiva Island and the Sanibel Fire Department.

“I don’t look at myself (as) special,” he said. “I just did what I was told to do. And then when it was my time to shine and my time to lead, I made sure that I took care of my guys.”

“I thought I was bulletproof and I wound up being bomb proof,” he said. “So I guess I can take on anything.”

Connect with this reporter:, @MarisaKendall (Twitter)

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