MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WTVR) - When a couple walks down the aisle and marries they vow to stick together through thick and thin. For one happily married couple from Mechanicsville their marriage was tested when something went terribly wrong on a battlefield half a world away.
Bryan and Angie Pearce knew from the very beginning they were to spend the rest of their lives together.
“When I found Angie I found my best friend and I married her,” Bryan said. “I was just lucky enough she said ‘Yes’.”
“We actually only dated two weeks before we got married," Angie Pearce recalled. "My life wouldn’t be complete without Bryan.”
Fifteen years and two children later, their bond could not grow stronger. A love cemented in war.
“I don’t know. I just didn’t have a good feeling about him being deployed,” Angie said.
As part of the U.S. Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade, Sgt. Bryan Pearce fought through some of the most dangerous places on earth.
“When we got to Mosul it was a mess,” Bryan said. “It was just a devil of a town.
Bryan and his fellow soldiers battled Iraqi insurgents day and night. A hornet’s nest with deadly consequences.
“When we got to Sadir City every time a truck left the wire they were getting into a firefight. We lost a lot of soldiers,” he remembered.
The Brigade’s other mission was to deliver humanitarian aid to those suffering under Saddam Hussein. But close calls were mounting for Bryan.
“I had a sniper shoot at me in Iraq,” Bryan said. “And he hit the window glass behind my head and that made my heart beat a little faster.”
Bryan’s luck eventually ran out.
On the morning of October 20th, 2006 Bryan’s life changed forever.
"I can see the convoy just as clear as a bell," he said. "I remember seeing the flash. A real nasty fireball. To me it felt like a monster had the humvee and was slamming it up and down on the road.”
An IED planted by Iraqi insurgents blew up and 37 pieces of shrapnel pierced the truck.
“It seemed like the world caved in. When they find me I was clinically dead,” Bryan said.
Part of the IED sliced into Bryan’s brain.
He was evacuated while holding on by a thread.
As Operation Iraqi Freedom ended for Bryan, but his personal battle for survival began.
Bryan faced weeks, months and years of surgeries and rehabilitation at McGuire Veteran’s hospital. His wife Angie hasn’t left his side.
“She pushes me and continues to push me. She is my biggest advocate,” Bryan said.
“It’s been very bumpy. Lots of ups and downs,” Angie said. “We take two steps forward and take five steps back.”
Six years removed from the attack Bryan’s made great strides, but large hurdles remain. He struggles to find words and is legally blind.
“There was a reason, and we might not understand it now,” Angie said. “But there was a reason why his life was spared.”
Through thick and thin. In sickness and in health. A promise they made so many years ago.
“He completes me and I complete him," Angie said. "We work through the good and the bad.”
“Everything is easier knowing she is beside me. Knowing she is there,” he said.