PHILADELPHIA, May 24, 2019 —
Earl Granville never wanted to join the Army. But an unusual request from his twin brother helped to change his mind, and his mindset.
Granville, who served as the keynote speaker for the Philadelphia Compound Veterans Committee’s annual Memorial Day ceremony on May 21, described the exact moment that he decided he wanted to join the military.
“I knew I wanted to go to college. I did not know what I wanted to do, but I wanted a higher education,” Granville said. “My twin brother decided to join the military. We saved our money and we bought a car together. One night, when I had the vehicle … he asked me to give him a ride to talk to [an Army] recruiter about something.”
Granville recalled that his decision to join the Pennsylvania National Guard that night in 2001 was about him and what he could receive, not about service.
“’Free education! I want to go to college. Yes, I’ll take that,’” he said. “’Looks like we get a free computer. Yes, that sounds awesome too! Look at all those benefits.’”
Granville’s first deployment was to Bosnia. Shortly after his return, he volunteered to serve a tour of duty in Iraq with his twin brother because he knew if something happened to his brother over there it would kill him.
It was during that time that his focused shifted from me to us.
“When I joined the military, I made it about me. In the situations that we faced over there - being a [noncommissioned officer] over there - I realized it was not about me. It’s about us. Some of my friends passed away over there, but my time in Iraq, for their sake, made me love my job. And I wanted to continue to [serve] for them.”
In 2008, Granville volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan, which was a decision that changed his life forever.
“We had been on a five-day mission, Granville said. On the final day, we took a different route to the site where we were about to build this school.”
After seeing the first patch of green grass in months, the next thing Granville remembered was seeing black.
“I could hear a faint noise and felt a momentum,” he said. “The vehicle was completely in pieces to my left and my feet were backwards.”
From the explosion, Granville sustained serious injuries to his right leg and lost his left leg. Two team members also died that day.
After multiple surgeries, months of physical therapy to learn to walk again and coping with the loss of team members on the battlefield, Granville was medically retired and ready to move forward.
Granville said he started dating again and felt good about life. But a surprise call from his distraught mother changed all of that.
Granville had lost another teammate - his twin brother, Joe, who committed suicide.
“I thought, ‘How could I get this second chance at life and Joe take his only one,’” Granville recalled.
Struggling to come to grips with his brother’s sudden death, Granville decided to change his focus back on himself. During a follow-on conversation with some of his brother’s friends, Granville learned that Joe was of so proud of the things he was accomplishing following his recovery.
“After the conversation, I asked myself would Joe be proud of me now?” he said. “So I decided to change a little bit by challenging myself physically and helping wounded and disabled veterans and law enforcement continue to live an active lifestyle after their injuries.”
Today, not only does Granville continue to challenge himself by participating in marathons and Spartan races, he challenges his listeners as he shares his story.
“After losing my leg, I learned that it is not about me, not about Joe but about ‘we’,” he said. “When you look at that uniform, any branch, it is full of purpose, all the passion that comes along with it, and you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Throughout the presentation, Granville highlighted some of his accomplishments post injury but Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support commander, believes his example to us is most noteworthy.
“I would say that the things that he has accomplished after the incident should interests us the most,” Simerly said. “His commitment and his courage to make the most of his life and to set an example for the rest us.”