MANHATTAN, NY, USA U.S. Marines SGT, RETIRED LIST MAINT/SPT SECTION (MMSR-7), MCB QUANTICO, VA SAN ANTONIO 04/11/2008
There was a heartbreaking high school reunion in Westchester Friday night – because the class hero couldn’t make it.
Friends and former classmates of Marine Sergeant Merlin German swapped stories and shared memories of the Iraq War veteran, who was horribly burned by a roadside bomb and lost his valiant three-year fight for life last month.
Among more than 100 friends and relatives gathered in the Woodlands High School auditorium in Hartsdale was school counselor Joe Foy, who said, “We’re here to honor Merlin’s spirit and let everyone know we honor him for his service and legacy.”
“Personally, in 17 years, I’ve never seen one student make such impact on the student body,” said Foy, adding that German was known for his humor, confidence and an oddly endearing touch of arrogance.
“He didn’t have a date for the senior prom,” Foy said with a smile, “but he said it was okay because, ‘I’ll dance with someone else’s date.’ And you know, he didn’t dance alone all night.”
Dubbed “Miracle Man” because he survived burns to 97% of his body, German endured 150 operations only to die at age 22 after a procedure to replace skin under his lip.
Friday night, the school auditorium was filled with pictures of German, who was born in Washington Heights and moved to Hartsdale as a teen, at various stages of his life. Longtime buddy Jedd Chesterson remembered German as a man always concerned about the welfare of his friends. “I visited him in the hospital in Texas,” said Chesterson. “There was this guy burned all over his body, and all he could talk about was problems I had with my girlfriend.”
German was wounded in February 2005 when Iraqi insurgents blew up his Humvee. Although given just a 3% chance of survival, German astounded his doctors by fighting back and recovering to the point that he was able to leave intensive care and walk on his own.
He was awarded a Purple Heart and became an inspiration to other wounded warriors and a beloved figure at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Wearing his Yankee hat, German made wisecracks and blared hip-hop music to cheer up the other patients, and started a foundation called Merlin’s Miracles to help burned children.