News: Two small holes, one big impact: 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Marine donates marrow
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay - Lance Cpl. Brantley Smith has two holes in his back, and has to put up with occasional sharp pain, but for him, a little temporary pain went a long way.
Last year after a bone marrow donation briefing, the 27-year-old
communications technician took a DNA test at the base chapel and thought nothing more about it — until he was called to save a life.
About a month after returning from Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Smith was checking his phone during a break at the rifle range. He’d received a message from the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program.
“I’d been recognized as a preliminary match,” said the native of Hammond, La. “They asked if I wanted to continue on with additional testing.”
Smith said it was “an honor to have the opportunity to save someone’s life.” He had never donated bone marrow before. He is also the second Marine from 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines in a little more than a year to donate bone marrow.
After the initial call, the organization sent a blood testing kit to the 3rd Marine Regiment Battalion Aid Station, where they took a sample of Smith’s blood for further comparison. One week later, Smith was told he was a match for a patient who needed bone marrow, and flew to Washington, D.C., for a physical and other testing to ensure he was in good health to donate.
Smith was scheduled to donate his marrow in November, and was
preparing to train with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines in Bridgeport, Calif. However, before leaving, he received yet another call — the patient’s condition was worsening, and the marrow was needed right away.
“I talked to my master sergeant and he brought it up to the sergeant major and the battalion commander,” Smith said. “They were on board right away.”
While the rest of the unit left for Bridgeport, Smith flew to Washington, D.C., all expenses paid, for the second time, Oct. 9. Accompanied by his brother, Smith underwent surgery Oct. 11.
“He was very calm,” Smith’s brother said. “He was excited to know he was helping somebody.”
Doctors made two incisions into his back, drilled into his bone and extracted a quart of marrow with a syringe. Although there were only two holes in his back, Smith said he was told there were about 60 holes in his bone where the marrow was taken. After resting for a day, he returned to Hawaii.
Smith’s parents heard about his donation shortly before he
was scheduled for surgery.
“I’m a very proud dad,” Smith’s father said of his son’s donation. “He’s a great person. He’s good to everybody.”
Smith’s mother shares the same sentiment.
“He’s one of the most beautiful human beings,” she said. “He’s got a heart of gold. Not so many people can say they’ve saved a life.”
Currently, Smith is on leave, still recovering from the surgery. He
experiences pain in his hips, sharp pain caused by certain movements and lightheadedness. In comparison to what a cancer patient suffers, Smith said it’s no contest. He said marrow is usually replenished within anywhere between four and six weeks.
“It’s really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be,” Smith said. “Yeah, there’s pain involved but at the same time, the pain that I felt … it’s nothing compared to (what a cancer patient goes through) … for me to complain about any kind of pain I had on my
side, it doesn’t compare.”
Smith was attending college when he heard about Marine-Corps life from a friend who had enlisted. Smith himself enlisted in January of 2010. Smith’s mother said she was amazed that her son decided to enlist in the Corps, despite being a quiet child who enjoyed reading.
“He wanted to stand for his country … I’m just as proud as I could be,” she said.
Smith is the only one in his family currently serving in the military.
“It’s something I’d been thinking about for awhile but never got serious,” Smith said. “Later in life it just kind of hit me.”
Smith’s work while deployed in Afghanistan has also been praised. Staff Sgt. Dempsey Lloyd, the battalion wire chief of Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, said Smith was able to work as a lead technician, a job normally given to a Marine whose rank is corporal or higher.
“He’s a real proficient Marine,” Lloyd said. “Very respectful, very mature.”
As for the donation, Lloyd said “it speaks highly of his character and the type of person he really is.”
While in Afghanistan, Smith also helped repair equipment when there was a power surge.
“He’s definitely a huge credit to the shop,” said Cpl. John Toler,
noncommissioned officer in charge of Communications Maintenance, with H&S Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines.
Toler said the Marines in Smith’s section felt pride when he donated bone marrow.
“His commitment has been unwavering,” Toler said. “You can’t do anything but just be proud to work with someone like that. He’s honestly one of the best Marines I’ve known, not just in the shop but in the entire Marine Corps.”
Upon returning from leave, Smith will either continue to work as usual or be temporarily assigned to light duty.
As for the future, he is aiming for one more re-enlistment, and completing school while he is still on active duty. Smith said donating the marrow was worth going through, and he would be
willing to do it again.
“The military is very lucky to have a (Marine) like him,” Smith’s
This work, Two small holes, one big impact: 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Marine donates marrow, by Kristen Wong, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.