Wounded Marine receives free Gainesville home at TPC


Marine Corps veteran Brian Sellers, center, is presented with the faux key to a mortgage-free Gainesville home as part of the Wounded Warriors program and the PGA Tour's Birdies for the Brave program at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA Tour)

US PGA TOUR
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — When he woke up in a hospital in Germany, Brian Sellers wanted to be dead.

He had no idea where he was and, more importantly, had no idea why he couldn't move any parts of his body.

“I had no idea what was going on,” he said. “I thought I was paralyzed. It was worse than death. I thought I was paralyzed. At that point, I wished I hadn't survived because I thought I was a vegetable.”

What happened on Oct. 23, 2004, less than three months after the Marine had been deployed to Ramdai, Iraq, was that an explosive device had shattered his world. He was standing near a door when the explosion occurred, taking out three Humvees and Sellers in the process.

That was the beginning of a journey that on Wednesday landed the 31-years-old Sellers at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, where he was presented with a faux key as part of the Wounded Warriors program and the PGA Tour's “Birdies for the Brave” program.

The presentation was made at the Patriots' Outpost, a large tented area between the 16th and 18th fairways at the Tournament Players Course where active and retired military can enjoy free hospitality throughout this week's Players Championship.

The key was a symbolic gesture. The Gainesville home he now lives in, which was donated by Chase Bank and given to Sellers mortgage free, is the reality.

“It means the world to me,” Sellers said. “It's a blessing to think I spent all the time in the military to protect and try to provide the American dream for everybody. And to come back and have someone provide for me a home — which is one of the American dreams — means a lot.”

The three-bedroom home is located in the Walnut Creek subdivision in northwest Gainesville. Sellers, who is from Palm Bay, has made Gainesville his home since starting school at the University of Florida in 2007.

He graduated with a degree in criminology in 2009 and received his graduate degree in nursing from Rasmussen College in Ocala. He has worked at North Florida Regional Medical Center since 2006.

He was a military kid growing up who joined the Marines because his grandfather had been in the Air Force, his father had been in the Army and his uncle had been in the Navy. Sellers joined the Marines in 2000, toured the Far East and went to Iraq as a sergeant.

And then ...

“I was right by a door when it blew. It sent shrapnel into my left side, neck and leg. It was right next to my corpsman, so I walked four steps and he took care of me. But there was a lot of blood coming from my neck,” Sellers said.

He was transported to a field hospital, then to Germany. That's when he woke up and wanted to die.

“A nurse explained everything that was going on,' he said. “I couldn't speak, and I was having trouble swallowing. The first three months, they didn't think I'd be able to talk again. The main damage is to the 12th cranial nerve, which is the nerve that moves the tongue.”

Sellers underwent speech therapy at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Today, he has a slight speech impediment, and his shoulder sometimes aches because of the shrapnel still there.

“There were many times when I wanted to give up,” he said. “But I had friends and family who supported me.”

In Gainesville, he had a hard time going out in public. It was easier to sit alone and think about what he had been through.

But finally, he made himself go to a salsa class. There, he met a girl named Frances Cordero. In March, they were married.

And later in the month, they moved into their new house.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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