Only 14 months after a devastating improvised explosive device attack took his legs, multiple fingers and hearing in one of his ears, Cpl. Jesse Fletcher will be leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., today.
It was a shock, Cpl. Fletcher said by telephone. Its impossible for me to put in words.
Cpl. Fletcher, who learned of his departure date last month, previously was told by doctors that injuries like his would take 18 to 24 months to recover from, and he had anticipated he would be out by February or March.
The Marine scout sniper, a 2008 graduate of Indian River High School, Philadelphia, served with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. Cpl. Fletcher was wounded Oct. 17, 2011.
He said he would view his time at Walter Reed as life changing, and the most memorable experience of my life.
In the past year, Ive done everything from learning to walk to having dinner with the vice president, he said. I really got to learn a lot about myself and my family.
His final month also included a sky dive with Team Fastrax, a professional team, onto the grounds of the hospital, and Cpl. Fletcher said he was told he was the first amputee to do such a thing.
In addition to leaving the hospital, Cpl. Fletcher will be getting out of uniform. His last day in the Marines will be Dec. 30.
I loved every moment of being a Marine, he said. They were the best times and worst times of my life for the past five years. I wouldnt trade it for anything.
Cpl. Fletcher also laid out some of his plans for life as a civilian. He said he had a new apartment in Winston-Salem, N.C., and he was waiting for responses to applications to Wake Forest University as well as the University of North Carolina locations in Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Greensboro.
He also said he wanted to write a book about the experiences of him and other Marine snipers, and said he planned to write the book next summer.
However, Cpl. Fletcher also appeared to realize the wide range of opportunities available to him.
Im 24 years old and retired, he said. How many people can say that?
For his last weekend in the hospital, he had no plans to lie low. On Friday afternoon, he said, he was heading to Philadelphia, Pa., to watch the Army-Navy football game Saturday.
Cpl. Fletchers blog can be found at www.supportforjessiefletcher.com, and a Facebook page dedicated to him can be found at www.facebook.com/supportmarinescoutsniperjessefletcher.
Video of his skydive onto the grounds of Walter Reed can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWTs1Mng8yw.