published Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Chattanooga-area Marine survives bomb blast in Afghanistan

  • photo
    U.S. Marine Pvt. 1st Class Brandon Kyle Pendergrass was injured Saturday in an Afghanistan bomb blast. Contributed Photo

When his family got the phone call Saturday telling them that U.S. Marine Pfc. Brandon Kyle Pendergrass had been injured in an Afghanistan bomb blast, only one thing stuck out from the flood of information they received.

“He is alive. That’s the big deal,” grandmother Judy Green said Monday.

“That was an early birthday present,” said Green, who will celebrate her 70th birthday Saturday.

Pendergrass, 21 and a 2009 graduate of Meigs County High School, was injured July 16 while riding in a four-vehicle convoy, according to his mother, Mollie Childs, who now has talked to her son a handful of times since the first call about 3 p.m. Saturday.

Pendergrass was guarding detainees in a seven-ton tactical vehicle known as an armadillo when it rolled over an improvised explosive device, his mother said.

When that first call came, Childs, 40, said she could hear what the woman caller was saying on the other end of the line but the shock left her too dazed to comprehend the words.

He was alive. That’s what mattered most.

Military medical officials told Childs that Pendergrass “had bleeding from the nose, ears and mouth, but he was alert. With help, he walked to the chopper himself. He had a concussion, a left radial fracture [of his arm], a lower lumbar fracture,” she said.

But Pendergrass never lost consciousness and remembered everything that happened, she said.

In messages relayed directly to his mother over the phone — Childs laughed that her son made her review his comments “10 times” to make sure she got them right — he described the incident.

“I was one of two Marines holding security on a group of detainees when our tactical vehicle hit an IED,” Pendergrass said. “After the dust had settled, both Pfc. Cuomo and myself were injured. I saw that Pfc. Cuomo was unconscious.

“I grabbed the nearest weapon and continued to hold security on the detainees until our fellow Marines arrived to our aid,” Pendergrass said. “Both Pfc. Cuomo and myself thank God to be alive, and we want to thank everyone for their prayers.”

Childs said she was uncertain of the nature or severity of Cuomo’s injuries or his first name.

Childs, who said she was proud of her son’s toughness, is expecting to head today to Fort Smith, Va., where Pendergrass is expected to arrive for further medical treatment tonight or Wednesday. He faces possible wrist surgery and some time in a back brace, she said.

But Pendergrass already has asked how soon he can return to his unit, she said.

“I could tell he was in pain,” Childs said, “but he’s already asking when he can go back.”

The show of courage makes her “nervous and proud,” she said. “He’s 21 and a Marine ... but he’s still my baby.”

Green said the Marine’s family and extended relations are a community-oriented and patriotic clan, and Kyle Pendergrass is a well-known name as a local fire and rescue member and one of Meigs County’s military sons.

Green, a 16-year member of the county’s fire and rescue department, said the family is always ready to help, and her grandson is carrying on a time-honored family tradition of service.

“We’re just all patriotically inclined to defend the country that we love,” she said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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