Cpl Justin Gaertner

Lutz, FL

Mission Completed on Dec. 4, 2013


Marine Corporal Justin Gaertner was on his third deployment when he lost both of his legs above the knees, and sustained severe damage to his left arm in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Marjah, Afghanistan on Nov. 26, 2010.

While on a routine route clearance mission, Cpl Gaertner, a combat engineer, was in the third vehicle of a convoy when the vehicle ahead hit an IED. While evacuating an injured Marine from the vehicle, and conducting secondary sweeps of the area, Cpl Gaertner found the pressure plate that had triggered the explosion. Continuing his sweep of the area, he watched helplessly as his best friend was blown up directly in front of him when another IED was triggered.

Being the only person onsite with a mine detector, Cpl Gaertner began sweeping an area for a Landing Zone for the MEDEVAC helicopter that would airlift the seriously injured Marines to safety. Within minutes, a third bomb, a buried IED, soon took both of his legs as well. With both legs traumatically amputated, his left arm shattered, and an 8” piece of glass lodged in his abdomen, Cpl Gaertner did not realize he had been hit until he tried to get up to provide security and search for any injured.

Lifesaving measures at the scene readied Cpl Gaertner and the other injured Marines, all having suffered traumatic amputations to both of their legs, for transport. Airlifted to Camp Dwyer and then to Bagram Air Base, Cpl Gaertner next travelled to Landstuhl, Germany before arriving in Bethesda, Maryland at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Cpl Gaertner enjoys competitive sports and finds that he most enjoys the challenge to try a new sport when someone tells him he “cannot” do something. Mono-skiing, surfing, snorkeling, sky diving, running track, fishing, and hunting are all at the top of his hobbies and interests list.

Shortly after receiving his home in 2013, Justin became a computer forensics analyst with H.E.R.O. Child-Rescue Corps. “This house has given me the opportunity to carry on my mission in life. There’s no way I could continue with my job if it wasn’t for HFOT,” he says.