CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - At the archery range for the 2012 Marine Corps Trials, Lance Cpl. Christopher Crump straddles the firing line on a leg that once shattered, finds his natural respiratory pause with lungs that were once collapsed, sights in on his bow with an eye that was once dangling from its socket, and speaks and writes words that he could not temporarily say and scribe, due the tragic event of Aug. 16, 2011.
Crump, a field wireman with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, had recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, where his mission was to help support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization train Afghan Police. He was not quite yet off mobilization orders, but was readjusting to life stateside just weeks following a seven-month Afghanistan deployment, when a tragic motorcycle accident changed his life forever.
Crump was part of a select group of Marines who left for Afghanistan ahead of the battalion and part of the advanced party that returned to Camp Pendleton. He and his fellow Marines were waiting on the rest of the battalion to return from the seven-month deployment.
Pictured: Lance Cpl. Christopher Crump, with Wounded Warrior Battalion East, evaluates his target down range just moments before sighting in during the 2012 Marine Corps Trials Feb. 16. Crump is a field wireman with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment. On Aug. 16, 2011, just weeks after returning home from a deployment in Afghanistan, Crump was cruising on his motorcycle after a day at the beach with friends, when he was struck by vehicle that ran a red light in Oceanside, Calif. Crump suffered multiple, major injuries to his skull, fibula, tibia, lungs and ribs to name a few. This is Crump’s first year to come to the trials where he will be trying out for the air-rifle prone, archery and sitting volleyball teams. The Marine Corps Trials is a Wounded Warrior Regiment hosted event in which approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured Marines compete for a spot on the 50-athlete, All-Marine team roster. The selected athletes will go on to compete in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, April 30 – May 6. The Games are a competition between all branches of service for wounded, ill and injured service members.
Crump was returning from a day at the beach where he was hanging out with friends and fellow Marines. As he was riding back to Camp Pendleton on his motorcycle in Oceanside, Calif., a truck ran a red light causing Crump and his motorcycle to strike the truck’s bed at approximately 70mph, hurling him and his bike into two different directions.
Crump was only half a mile from the entrance to the base.
“I don’t remember a thing about what happened that day,” recalled Crump. “The last thing I remember was eating dinner the night before. Other than that, everything was told to me by my friends and family.”
Disoriented, confused and foggy-minded, the seriously injured Crump regained full consciousness days later. He had no idea why he was in the hospital.
“I was in the hospital for a total of two months,” said Crump. “I was doing physical therapy for about an hour a day, working mostly on redeveloping strength in my upper body and abs. I couldn’t do any much more because I was still trying to regain full strength in my lungs.”
Crump’s lungs collapsed the day of the accident. However, this was only one of the many injuries he sustained that August evening.
“I fractured my neck, my eye was drooping from my face, all the ribs on my right side were broken, both my lungs collapsed, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), shattered my tibia and fibula,” listed Crump who stated that these were not the entire extent of all his injuries.
The accident robbed Crump of many of the basic abilities he had known and learned at a very early age.
“I had to teach myself how to speak and write again,” Crump said. “I couldn’t walk either. The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to walk for at least four or five months, I was walking in two.”
With the help of multiple reconstructive surgeries and advances in medical technology, Crump’s crushed leg is operational once again. The 2012 Marine Corps trials are another step Crump’s road to recovery. While it has been six months from the day of the accident, he admits he is still not performing one-hundred percent.
“I have metal and 24 pins in my leg now,” stated the Conroe, Texas native. “The difference between before and after my injury is that I can’t stand for extended periods of time and I have difficulty breathing.”
Days in the hospital were made easy when friends and family from his home back in Texas came to California to help me get through my recovery, said Crump.
“I got big support from my family and friends,” said Crump, who works as a computer hardware technician as a civilian. “Overall I had about 30 people fly all the way from Texas to California to come see me while I was in the hospital. I have five brothers and I appreciate everything they have done for me. They have been there for me since day one.”
Sgt. Johnathan Reyna, a mentor to Crump with WW Bn East Marine Detachment, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, works closely with the lance corporal on a daily basis. Crump has already received most of his primary treatment, and is receiving care at the San Antonio Medical Center during the final stages of his recovery. Reyna is assisting Crump as he begins the steps to transition back to life as a civilian in the Houston area.
“He (Crump) is the kind of guy who never complains about his inabilities or disabilities,” said Reyna, a reservist on individual mobilization orders. “I encourage not only him but the other wounded warriors how to not think of what they can’t do because of their injuries, but learn how to do what they can, with them.”
Reyna is currently with Crump and the other wounded warriors of the detachment, cheering from the sidelines and providing assistance to the Marine athletes, as needed.
“The trials give a lot of these guys (wounded warriors) a chance to try new things,” said Reyna, a San Antonio, Texas native. “Events like this give Crump the chance to associate himself with others and learn from everyone why we are all here.”
Crump is in Southern California on the Marine Corps’ dime, participating in the 2012 Marine Corps Trials. This is Crump’s first year to come to the Trials. Before his arrival, he had never shot an air-rifle, played sitting volleyball or even touched a long-bow.
Crump will be trying out for a spot on the All-Marine Warrior Games team in all three of those sports.
“When I first heard about the Trials, I thought it was going to be kind of lame,” admitted the three and half year veteran. “But as soon as I got here and started competing, it’s turned into one of the best experiences of my entire life.”
According to Crump’s doctors, life may not be the same as before the accident, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
The Marine Corps Trials is a Wounded Warrior Regiment hosted event in which approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured Marines compete for a spot on the 50-athlete, All-Marine team roster. The selected athletes will go on to compete in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, April 30 – May 6. The Games are a competition between all branches of service for wounded, ill and injured service members.