2018-10-05 / Front Page

Veteran shares life of adversity, purpose

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Army Veteran Earl Granville, a retired staff sergeant who now takes part in endurance sports, shares some memories and words of encouragement during a Suicide Prevention Month presentation in Alexander Hall. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Army Veteran Earl Granville, a retired staff sergeant who now takes part in endurance sports, shares some memories and words of encouragement during a Suicide Prevention Month presentation in Alexander Hall. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Retired Staff Sgt. Earl Granville experienced his fair share of combat during his third overseas deployment as an infantryman.

Little did he know at the time that his greatest battle would arise a couple of years later while stateside.

Granville shared his story of loss and perseverance during the installation’s Suicide Prevention Awareness command program held Sept. 27 at Alexander Hall.

Uncertain of what he wanted to do after high school, Granville joined the Pennsylvania National Guard with his twin brother, Joseph. The pair arrived at basic training together on Sept. 1, 2001; just days before 9/11.

“When those towers got hit, I remember looking at my brother and saying, ‘Dude, I did not sign up for this,’” Granville recalled.

Shortly after graduating, the brothers deployed to Bosnia together and later volunteered to go to Iraq. While in Iraq, Granville took on added responsibilities and developed a deep appreciation for the military he once second-guessed joining. Looking back on Iraq, Granville said it was the best decision he ever made.

“I realized that it’s not about me; it’s about us,” he said. “And I really loved my job.”

Granville loved it so much that he decided to re-enlist while downrange.

After returning from Iraq, Granville completed his associate’s degree and his unit received warning orders for Afghanistan. Eager to serve, he volunteered again. His brother, on the other hand, chose to stay behind with his pregnant wife. On June 3, 2008, while on patrol in Zormat, Afghanistan, Granville’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing two of his friends. Granville was ejected from the vehicle and suffered wounds forcing doctors to amputate more than half of his left leg.

“All I can say is I got lucky,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Granville spent the next two years recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. At a time when it would have been easy to pity himself and his circumstances, he was in good spirits. While there, he was introduced to sled hockey, which he eventually picked up, and learned how to snowboard using a special prosthetic leg.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is an alteration of my life, but it’s not the end of my life.’”

But his brother was not so optimistic. The first day Joseph visited Granville in the hospital, he continually expressed regret.

“He said to me, as I’m lying in my hospital bed, ‘I should’ve gone with you, man.’ He just kept beating himself up,” Granville recalled.

Out of the hospital and medically retired, Granville was getting ready for a holiday party on Dec. 18, 2010, when his mother called to say Joseph committed suicide.

“It was the worst day of my life,” he said. “I hit the ground, I screamed while I’m still on the phone with her ... how could something like this happen? How could I get a second chance at life and Joe take his only one away?”

Desperate not to turn to self-destruction, Granville said he poured every ounce of alcohol down the drain, deleted social media, and delved into handling his brother’s funeral arrangements.

“It sounds silly, but it kept my mind at ease, and I was so busy,” he said.

After his brother was buried and the busyness of life settled down, Granville said he lost his sense of purpose and played the role of “victim” for a while, leading him to make poor choices. Then he encountered one of Joseph’s former coworkers, who told Granville that Joseph often talked about how proud he was of Granville for all he had accomplished. It was a life-changing moment.

“I thought to myself, ‘Joe was proud of me then. Would he be proud of me now?’ I realized this wasn’t about me playing the victim anymore,” he said.

With the help of professional counseling, Granville committed to change himself for the better. He found a new purpose (helping others live a healthy life), rediscovered an old passion (physical fitness), and became part of something bigger than himself (various Veterans’ organizations committed to helping others). Not a day goes by where he doesn’t think about his brother or the incident that took his leg, but Granville has learned not to let those thoughts control him.

“All these things that happened – I realized that in life, you can’t make it about yourself,” he said. “Adversity is going to happen in your life no matter who you are, but no matter what, you still have decisions to make.”

Return to top