For a second straight year B& S Aircraft Parts & Accessories will offer a salute to wounded veterans at its exhibit at AirVenture. Marine Sergeant Jonathan Blank of Augusta, Kan., who was injured in October in Afghanistan, is the company’s guest during the week-long show.
Sergeant Blank was injured in October 2010 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, while on duty with the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. On foot patrol four days before he was scheduled to rotate back to the States, he lost both his legs and sustained internal injuries when an improvised explosive device detonated. After months of recovery and rehabilitation, the now 24-year old Marine exemplifies the USMC’s motto, Semper Fidelis —“always faithful.” Generally shortened to Semper Fi, it’s often used as a salutation or acknowledgment of the special bond among Marines. The Semper Fi Fund is also the name of the charitable organization Sergeant Blank and B&S Aircraft have chosen to promote during AirVenture 2011. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, the fund directs urgently needed resources to post 9-11 Marines and Sailors, as well as members of the Army, Air Force or Coast Guard who serve in support of Marine forces. The Semper Fi Fund (SFF) provides relief for financial needs that arise during hospitalization and recovery as well as assistance for those with perpetuating needs.
“When I heard about Jon’s courage and sacrifice last Fall, I immediately thought of him as someone who would be an inspiration to others…and I just knew there was no way he would let even the devastating injuries he suffered defeat him,” said David Copeland, manager of program development for B&S Aircraft. “In 2010, we utilized our exhibit at AirVenture as a tribute to wounded veterans and invited Army Lieutenant Brian Brennan, who was also seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2008 to tell his story. He did so and was truly an inspiration. Jonathon has that same indomitable spirit and commitment to others so we made the obvious decision to invite him to share his inspiring story with visitors as our guest this year.”
Blank had actually be on the verge of finishing his active duty requirement earlier in 2010, but extended his tour so he’d be included when his unit headed for Afghanistan’s Taliban-dominated Helmand Province. “My guys were like, ‘we really need you.’ I didn’t really have to think much of it. I said, ‘yeah I’ll go.’ I wasn’t going to let my guys go without me. Because if something happened to one of them, I’d always think, ‘could I have been there to change something? Could I have been there to help them?’ And besides, this is the chance to serve,” he explained.
On Oct. 26, 2010, Jonathon and members of his 1st Reconnaissance Battalion were aware that Taliban forces had recently been in the area they were assigned to patrol. Taking every precaution, he even went so far as to walk in the footprints of a fellow soldier who had patrolled there earlier. “Suddenly, everything went white,” said Jon. “I felt a dirty, dusty rain and tried crawling. I saw blood and knew one of my legs was blown off.” In fact, his injuries were life threatening.
After receiving emergency medical treatment in Afghanistan and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the U.S. hospital that treats military personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was supposed to be transported from Landstuhl to Bethesda on Oct. 30, 2010. His family immediately traveled there in anticipation of his arrival, but Blank developed an infection and fluid in his lungs. His flight was diverted to England so he could be taken to a hospital there. He remained in that hospital until his condition improved enough that his trip could be completed Friday Nov. 5.
The severely wounded Marine sergeant returned to the United States after a week’s delay, arriving at Andrews Air Force Base before being taken to the nearby National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His family and some of his friends were there at the hospital to greet him. Subsequently, he was transferred to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to continue rehabilitation. There, Jonathon asked the hospital staff about the record recovery time from injuries such as his and was told “four and a half months.” He told the staff, “I expect to at least tie that recovery record.”
Service runs in the Blank family: Jonathan’s twin brother, Linden, is a former Marine now on the Augusta police force; their father Matthew is a private investigator; mother Karen Blank is an officer in the Wichita Police Department; and sister Abigael is an ROTC student at the University of Kansas.
Sergeant Blank will remain at AirVenture 2011 through Friday, July 29.
Founded in 1965, B&S Aircraft Parts & Accessories of Wichita, specializes in the repair, maintenance and overhaul of starter generators, fuel systems, fuel injectors, boost pumps, deicer components, inverters, electric motors and other accessories and components for a wide variety of general aviation, commercial and military aircraft. For more information: BSAircraft.com