Beekeeper’s Marine son overcomes IED injuries
BOONTON, N.J. — Gooserock Farm’s beekeeping home base is located on a gorgeous property in Montville Township, right next to picturesque Gooserock Pond. EAS Master Beekeeper Landi Simone and her family have lived there for 33 years.
Simone often journeys with Indy, the family dog, for a 40-minute walk up the hill behind the pond, all the while pondering what she is grateful for.
One is that her son is alive.
Adrian Simone was 19 when, on Aug. 24, 2011, while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he stepped on a Taliban-planted improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs.
“He was a kid,” Simone says of her now 27-year-old son. “He went into the Marine Corps right out of high school. He was in the country for one month — that’s it. So, he deployed to Afghanistan in July, and got blown up in August.”
The Simones first received the news the next day via a 5:30 a.m. phone call. At that time, Adrian had lost one leg above the knee, and just a foot on the other. Landi and her husband, Paul, had no time for tears. “What good would that do for any of us?” asks Simone.
Instead, there was shock, and they both clutched and hugged each other. “We had to hold it together for each other, and later for Adrian, and for his sister Kira. They’re very, very close.” Kira, in fact, took a year off from college to be her brother’s non-medical assistant.
There are many Marines and soldiers that did not survive. The place where Adrian was treated, the 6th floor of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., is devoted to the wounded Army and Marine Corps service personnel that return from Afghanistan. Most are amputees.
“Those young people, it’s extraordinary,” says Landi. “As soon as one of them gets out of the hospital bed and into a wheelchair, what do they do? They go around to the others that are still bed-ridden and encourage them.”
Simone remembers standing next to one man’s bed, his head with a concave wound, he in a coma, a triple amputee, the possibility of recovery minimal and if so, perhaps with permanent brain damage.
“His family, his mother was there, and she was smiling at me, she was talking about my son, and I was thinking inside, ‘My God, this woman has courage.’ If Adrian were that critically wounded, I don’t know if I could’ve handled it.
“Adrian had ten surgeries to get his limbs at that time completely clean. That is not a lot,” says Landi. “He was a double (amputee) above the knee. It could’ve been a lot worse.”
It was a very anxious two weeks until Adrian finally was transported to Bethesda, his family waiting in the hall for him. As he was being wheeled down the hall, Landi ran to him, grabbed his hand. He looked at her and said, “Mom, they took my legs.”
She responded to him, “Yes, honey, I know they did, but you’re going to be okay.”
The most important thing the Simones did was stay positive, Landi said, especially to aid Adrian during his recovery.
“He still had his face, his hands, his mind – more than anything else,” she says.
Adrian has beaten the odds. Aside from a period of depression, he has pushed forward. He lives on his own, walks with the aid of two prosthetic legs when not in a wheelchair, and loves teaching.
He initially wanted to be career Marine Corps – and even returned last March to Camp Lejeune when his unit 1/6 returned home and marched with them, staying until July. However, after taking medical retirement from the Marine Corps and later graduating from Montclair State University Summa Cum Laude, he got a job as a part-time Teacher’s Assistant in Long Hill Township, which has significantly inspired him.
“He became completely enamored with the whole process of teaching,” says his mom.
He now teaches history as a student teacher in Newark, part of the process of completing his Master’s degree in Education at Montclair State.
“We’re very proud of him,” says Landi, speaking for her family. “I think we tried to raise both of our children to have positive attitudes about things, to always think about what it is that they have rather than what they don’t have. And they pretty much got that – both of them.”