War Hero Solves Home Plumbing Problems as his Latest Service
BY MORGAN CUSHEY
He’s a plumber and a self-proclaimed, regular “Pittsburgh guy,” but there is more to Brandon Scherer, 24, than his affinity for plumbing and his Regular Joe demeanor. This combat veteran lives each day with ringing ears and an aching back – injuries suffered in Afghanistan – But he’s not complaining.
“I’m honored to be messed up. I earned it [injuries] serving my country. I’m proud of it,” Scherer said.
This modest plumber from Whitehall began his career with the encouragement of his father’s friend, who was also
a plumber. When Scherer was 19, he was hired at Mark Gillece Plumbing as a summer landscaper. As he progressed in his landscaping job, Scherer was offered a position as an apprentice service technician with the company.
Scherer later left the company to attend night class at the Associated Master Plumbers of Allegheny County, where he became certified in plumbing; and heating, ventilation, and cooling.
Armed with an education and a determination to move ahead, Scherer took a detour from the plumbing profession to serve in the United States Army.
“I had many other options, but I wanted to serve,” Scherer said. He enlisted in the Army at 19 and was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He was placed in a unit that had just returned from a tour in Iraq. Scherer said that because of the experience these troops had over him, “I had to earn my place. I was the newbie.” He said these soldiers had seen combat and had watched their fellow solders fall to the enemy. Scherer said he had to prove himself, and that is exactly what he did.
On Day One of weapons training with his unit, Scherer qualified as “expert.” He was one out of only two to accomplish this in the unit. He went on to qualify second out of a 2,000-person brigade in marksmanship and weaponry.
Shortly before his 22nd birthday, Scherer was deployed to Afghanistan in June of 2009. During his deployment he worked on a mortar team, where he protected the base and was one of the first lines of defense against an enemy attack.
Insurgents attacked the base while Scherer was on duty. He said the enemy knew the mortar team was the strongest so they attacked the team first -- hard and heavily.
“Bullets were bouncing off of the ground. You couldn’t get rounds down range in the gun pit,” Scherer said.
Scherer was caught in the path of an 82-mm recoilless round when it hit the rock wall and landed 5-to-6 feet in front of him.
“It [the explosion] threw me with complete centrifugal force into the wall,” Scherer said.
His neck and spine were dislocated.
He also was left with permanent hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a permanent brain injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, an injury that is caused by the head being hit by something or shaken violently. This brain injury is known to cause memory loss, as well as problems with hearing and sight.
After combat, Scherer returned to Fort Carson in October 2010. There he was evaluated and deemed unfit for duty due to his injuries. He was granted an honorable discharge
and a severance pay for his service.
In October 2011, Scherer left the Army a decorated war hero, earning 11medals, ribbons, or badges for his bravery in combat and dedication to serving the United States. Among his awards are the Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two stars, and an Expert Marksman Badge.
After his honorable discharge, Scherer settled down in Colorado and began working for the Mr. Rooter plumbing company. During his career there, he was quickly promoted to a training position and was recognized as one of the best service technicians within the company, he said.
Scherer, an avid motorcycle rider, said he got right back into the steel saddle when he returned from Afghanistan. But soon he was in a motorcycle accident that severely injured his wrist and hand, leaving him with titanium holding together his wrist.
“I got blown up and survived. God gave me a second chance. So I’m gonna live my life to the fullest,” Scherer said. After he recovered, he got right back to motorcycle riding, not letting an injury keep him from his passion.
After working for Mr. Rooter for two years, Scherer said his injuries began to affect his ability to work. When the physical demands of his job became too taxing, he left his position at Mr. Rooter and returned to Pittsburgh.
“Once I quit, I had no reason to stay [in Colorado]. My childhood memories, friends, and family are all in Pittsburgh,” Scherer said.
After returning to Pennsylvania, Scherer was hired at Lowe’s Home Improvement Store in Homestead, where he works as a plumbing specialist. At Lowe’s, Scherer finished his training early and was quickly certified to run the forklift. By his fourth day of training, Scherer was out on the floor working, with employees and helping customers.
“If I keep my head in the game and do what I’m supposed to do, I think I could become a store manager,” Scherer said.
He hopes to use his extensive knowledge of plumbing and leadership skills to move up in the company. “I believe I’ll make a career here,” he said.
Despite his physical challenges, Scherer said he enjoys being back in the workforce. He said that he tries to keep as positive as he can.
“Yea, it is permanent. I’m in pain all day, every day, and I can’t hear half the time. But if I keep reminiscing on it, I’ll just be a Debbie Downer. I earned it all. I should wear it with pride,” Scherer said.
Morgan Cushey is a Senior at California University of Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in journalism. She plans to work for a local newspaper after she graduates. See her website here: http://morgancushey.weebly.com