Profile of a Wounded Warrior: Brett Hightower

Story by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade Public Affairs

The Hightower Family Jana - Brett Emma - Meredith

Master Sgt. Brett Hightower attends the slam-dunk competition at the 2012 Derby Festival Basketball Classic along with his wife Jana and his children Emma and Meredith. Hightower was a judge in the competition along with Darrell Griffith, the all-time leading scorer at the University of Louisville. (photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade Public Affairs)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brett Hightower won’t tell you he’s a hero.

He won’t tell you he’s the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor.

He won’t tell you that he almost had his head blown completely off during a fierce firefight with enemy insurgents in Schwak, Afghanistan in 2008.

Or that they were close enough to throw a hand grenade at him, which detonated and almost ended his life, when a large piece of shrapnel took out half his neck.

He won’t tell you that when he woke-up a few seconds after the initial blast from the grenade, his first thoughts were ‘I’m not going to die here, am I? No way, I am not going to die here! I have a wife and two little girls!  Get up!’

But he didn’t get up; he passed out from traumatic blood loss.

He won’t tell you any of that.

Unless you ask him.

After observing Brett for the better part of three days during the 2012 Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville you can see he has ‘a way’ about himself. He almost strolled, humbly, as if knowing he would never have to explain himself to anyone.  He was comfortable with himself, at peace with his lot in life even.

He is not the stereotypical combat veteran the media wants to sell you on, one that shuts down when asked about or is reminded of their role in war.  Instead, he carries himself with an almost effortless elegance.

Brett talks about it, not as a braggart, but as someone giving information about a horrific life event that happened to him.

Brett is a former Kentucky Guardsman and Wounded Warrior.

As a Wounded Warrior, he was selected to be the judge for the slam-dunk competition alongside Darrell Griffith at the 2012 Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville April 4-6.

Darrell Griffith is the all-time leading scorer at the University of Louisville, 10-year NBA veteran, and better known as ‘Dr. Dunkenstein.’

Brett, a former eight-year Bowling Green Police veteran, knows he was lucky to survive the blast on August 16, 2008.

“I knew I was losing a lot of blood, I could see it come out of me onto the ground” said Brett “the Soldiers loaded me into a medical HUMVEE and it raced off to the casualty collection point where I was loaded into a Huey.  While on the chopper there was an Air Force female medic that was sweeping my body for other injuries and treating me in flight, she looked at me at one point and smiled and then I passed out again” said Brett.

His next memory was being in a hospital where he said he awoke for a few seconds and then knocked right back out again only to wake up in a plane days later and see his wife of 14 years, Jana Chandler sitting in a cargo net, strapped in on the C-130 smiling at him, and then, yup, he passed back out.

It was only when he made it to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.,did he realize he was going to be okay.

WW Brett Hightower and Nat Guard

Master Sgt. Brett Hightower attends the slam-dunk competition at the 2012 Derby Festival Basketball Classic along with NAT GUARD. Hightower was a judge in the competition along with Darrell Griffith, the all-time leading scorer at the University of Louisville. (photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade Public Affairs)

“Jana is so tough,” said Brett of his bride. “She immediately flew to Germany, calm and not panicked, when she got the news of my injury, and was by my side for almost two weeks before I even gained consciousness.”

He continued, “My jaw was wired shut and I couldn’t suck through a straw either, so Jana would blend cans of soup in a blender, then strain it, and I would drink it. That’s how I survived.”

It wasn’t long after that he was able to reunite with his two beautiful daughters, Meredith Claire and Emma Elizabeth.

“Tears flowed down all of our faces like a faucet that day, I missed my girls” said a smiling Hightower.

Brett is now doing great and works at Fort Knox as a Wounded Warrior Advocate for their severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. He is their hero also and a shining example of what the Kentucky Guard means when they look for the best and the brightest.

He said he will do anything to help his fellow Kentucky Guardsman and any and all of the Wounded Warriors that served, “their all my heroes” said Brett.

He wouldn’t tell you that though, unless you ask him.

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