Marine Cpl. Brock Callaway survives Afghanistan blast

By Lynn R. Parks

When Woodbridge High School grad and Marine Corps corporal Brock Callaway stepped on a land mine a few weeks ago in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan, he walked away uninjured. For that, he thanks his maternal grandmother, a Seaford woman who died just a few weeks later. "She knew that her time was coming," Callaway said, speaking by phone from Patrol Base Shark Tooth in the Sangin District. "She prayed to the angels who were watching over her to leave her and to watch over me."

Shirley Seymour died July 9 at the age of 68 and was buried last Wednesday in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Seaford. When her grandson comes home on leave next month, he will visit her graveside.

"She gave her last days so that I could be safe," he said. "She is the reason that I'm still here to talk about what happened." Callaway, 20, and the son of Amos Noble Callaway IV, Bridgeville, and Donna Webster, Delmar, graduated from Woodbridge High School in 2008. On July 14 of that year, he joined the Marines. He is serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

On June 26, he and three other Marines were inspecting an area near Base Shark Tooth, "to make sure that it was safe and clean," Callaway said. He was using a mine detector. But it failed to pick up a small mine, probably planted during the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. When Callaway stepped on the "toe popper," designed to maim the feet of whoever tripped it, it exploded.

"It was very loud," he said. "I was shocked and dazed. I ran screaming to the other Marines who were with me. They were all in shock. In the six months we've been here, there's been no incident like this."

Fellow Marine Cpl. David Veneziani from Cataula, Ga., was out there that day. "The first thing that I noticed was that he had all his extremities, which of course was my first concern," he said. "I grabbed him, threw him up on my shoulders in a fireman's carry and got him away from that area."

"He ran up a hill to a safe area, put me down and assessed me for injuries," Callaway said. As it turned out, the only visible result of the explosion was a bruised leg, from ankle to groin.

"Nothing was broken, nothing was bleeding," Callaway said. "Cpl. Veneziani kept talking to me, asking me questions, to keep me calm." The unit called in a helicopter, which flew Callaway to a medical facility at nearby Camp Sebastian. He stayed there for two hours, then was taken to a wounded warrior battalion, where he was kept for four hours. While there, he called his parents to tell them what had happened. "They were shocked and upset, but glad that I was OK," he said.

Since the explosion, Callaway has been in counseling, "to learn to get my mind off of what happened, to get me from shock mode into recovery mode," he said. His unit is expected to return to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina sometime next month. Until that time, Callaway is restricted to his base. No more patrols for him, at least during this deployment.

Callaway praised the strict training that Marines get before and during deployments. "We always do our drills over and over, and we always think, 'Why do I have to do this again when I already know it?' But when this happened, everybody knew exactly what to do. It was second nature to us."

With that training comes an assurance that with the unit, there is safety, he said. "After the explosion, when I got back with the other Marines, I felt safe," he said. "We are a brotherhood. We protect each other."

Callaway said that he is looking forward to his three-week leave and to spending time with his friends and family. "I'm a family man," he said. "I believe that the way to get through tough times is with your family and your friends."

And even after living through a land mine blast, he's not even considering leaving the Marine Corps. "Most definitely, I will stay in," he said. He's nearly completed paperwork required to apply for the Force Reconnaissance Companies ("Recon"), a Marine Corps special operations force.

"I knew what the danger was when I joined the Marines," Callaway said. "I'm not going to let this stop me from fulfilling my dream." The following was written by his mother, Donna Webster of Delmar I just finished listening to the audio portion of the interview done with my son, Cpl. Brock Callaway, who is currently serving in Afghanistan.My mother passed away July 9 due to respiratory failure at the age of 68. She was sick for about a month prior to her passing but we felt she was going to pull through it, so chose not to tell Brock at that time.All he knew was that she was in the hospital.

On Wednesday, July 6, Hospice was called in and a message sent to Brock through Red Cross.Brock never received that message until July 10 when he kept requesting to see it from his Command.Unfortunately, grandparents aren't considered immediate family, so he was not allowed to come home for the services.I know Brock feels angels were watching over him at the time of his incident and that is why my mother passed away.That's certainly not the case. She was tired and was ready to go home to be with God.Brock wrote a letter to his mom-mom, whom he refers to as his new guardian angel, that was read at her services.

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