Brandon Blackstone, a former Marine from Arlington, Texas, is facing up to 21 years in prison after “stealing” the story of fellow Marine Casey Owens, according to a report from Fox News.
“It took my breath away that someone would do something like that,” said Owens’ sister, Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink.
Corporal Casey Owens lost both of his legs in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on his second tour of duty in September, 2004. Responding to a call from a fellow wounded Marine, Owens’ vehicle struck two anti-tank landmines, resulting in severe injuries to both of his legs. He was thrown thirty feet in the air.
“They were certain he was going to die,” recalled his sister. “He broke everything you would possibly think of to break.”
“He was very proud to serve. He planned on being a grunt, a lifer.”
Airlifted to and stabilized at a field hospital, he was transferred to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany – where his injuries were so severe that both legs had to be amputated; the right leg above the knee, and the left leg below. In addition to his leg injuries, Owens also suffered from a broken jaw and collarbone, shrapnel wounds, collapsed lungs, and blood clots in his lungs.
Owens then returned to America, undergoing extensive surgery and rehabilitation at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The treatments seemed unending – and after his leg wounds failed to close properly after his amputations, he had to undergo further amputations to both legs – operations which were paid for out-of-pocket and through charitable donations. Owens would later testify before Congress about the difficulty veterans experienced in getting medical treatment.
He was awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery.
After a traumatic brain injury torpedoed his second attempt at college, Owens went on to become an accomplished parathelete, both as a skier and in marathons.
Sadly, struggling for years with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcoholism, and stress over his issues with the Veterans Association, Casey Owens took his own life.
Which brings us to Brandon Blackstone.
For years, according to WFAA, Blackstone toured the country speaking to audiences about his experiences in Iraq. He received monthly disability benefits from the VA. He lived in a house, purchased for him through a wounded war charity.
“This is the coolest thing I think that’s ever happened,” he told local news when he found out he was getting the house.
The stories Blackstone told his audiences? Were of the Purple Heart he received when his humvee hit an anti-tank mine in Iraq. He told his audiences how he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and suffered injuries to his legs and ankles.
Blackstone even showed his audiences a picture of his humvee, mangled by the mines it had supposedly struck. And that’s where his story eventually fell apart – Blackstone eventually showed the picture to one of Owens’ war buddies who had personally witnessed the explosion; from there, his entire story was picked apart. While Blackstone and Owens did serve together, and Blackstone may even have witnessed the explosion himself, he was sent home from Iraq when his appendix ruptured.
From there, he rode Owens’ story to fame.
“I was diagnosed with insomnia. I couldn’t sleep for long period of time… I ended up 100 percent disabled and unemployable due to my mental state and the injuries that I sustained.”
In the long run, Brandon Blackstone was taken to trial for defrauding the government, and pled guilty. He will face sentencing in February, and may face up to 21 years in prison for claiming Owens’ story as his own.
Kleibrink plans to attend the sentencing, along with their mother.
“I just want it to be a closed case so that these guys know their Marine is OK. He’s standing at the gates of Valhalla. And he’s proud of them. And they’re proud of him. That’s what matters most to me.”
[Featured Image by Warrick Page/Getty Images]