A Marine sergeant who became a symbol of resilience as he strove to recover from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq that blanketed 97 percent of his body with burns has died, the Defense Department said. He was 22.
Sgt. Merlin German died April 11 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he was continuing treatment for the injuries he suffered in combat on Feb. 22, 2005, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The former turret gunner was dubbed the "Miracle Man" for his determination in facing his wounds, which cost the former saxophone player his fingers and rippled his face with scars. He endured more than 40 surgeries, spent 17 months in a hospital and had to learn to walk again.
Meanwhile, he started a charity, Merlin's Miracles, to aid child burn victims and considered college and a career.
"Sometimes I do think I can't do it," he told The Associated Press last year. "Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want. ... Nobody has ever been 97 percent dead and survived, and lived to walk."
Born in New York City, German moved to its suburbs as a teenager. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 2003, according to his charity's Web site. He was medically retired four years later, the Defense Department said.
German had been stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the state Capitol's flags would be flown at half-staff in German's honor, saying the sergeant's "courage and unfailing loyalty serve as an inspiration to Americans everywhere."