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Amputee soldier takes re-enlistment oath at bottom of dive tank

Army Staff Sgt. Michael Brown takes his re-enlistment oath Aug. 31, 2018 in the dive tank at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Brown was taught to dive as therapy after losing his lower leg in a rocket grenade attack in Iraq, and he loves the sport so much he wanted to celebrate it and his re-enlistment at the same time.

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By LEE ROOP | Alabama Media Group | Published: September 1, 2018

HUNTSVILLE, Al. (Tribune News Service) — If you were looking for Huntsville soldier Michael Brown on Friday, you needed to search 30 feet under water in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's dive tank.

Staff Sgt. Brown, a combat veteran and wounded warrior based at Redstone Arsenal, went to the bottom of the tank to take his oath of re-enlistment from fellow diver and Lt. Col Gary Blount.

Brown chose the center's Underwater Astronaut Trainer "as a fitting location to marry his two passions, the Army and scuba diving," the Army said in a press release. It's where Brown loves to be, and that's something of a surprise to him and everyone else.

"In 2007, two years after joining the army, my left leg was blown off below the knee," Brown explained after surfacing. It happened in Mosul, Iraq, 33 days after he deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. An RKG-3 anti-tank grenade hit Brown, and he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Hospital where military doctors have learned how to perform surgical miracles.

Brown got specially designed prosthetic leg and also something to think about. "I was taught to scuba dive as part of adaptive rehabilitation - to think outside the box about what my 'new normal' could be," Brown said Friday.

Sky diver, scuba diver, rock climber and mountain biker. You don't think of wounded soldiers in those terms, Brown said, but he is all them and more.

Scuba diving is a special love, Brown said, because it "provides a pain-free environment for me to explore the wonders of the ocean, uninhibited by the burdens I feel on the surface from my disability."

"I couldn't have done that without my family," Brown said of his recovery. He thanked his sister, his wife, Kim, and his daughter, Alyssa. "Words can't express how much I love you," he told his wife.

Brown is currently an aide to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's command sergeant major. His re-enlistment adds seven more years to his Army career, and that will take him to 20 years service and retirement eligibility.

That's the long-term goal. Short-term, Brown wants to lead soldiers.

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