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Marine Corps marksman excels despite losing leg in Iraq
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Nicholas Beberniss on Monday stood behind three marines holding M-16A4 rifles at the 200-yard line rifle range.
“Shooters with a magazine and five rounds load!” he shouted.
Sitting in a sand box, the three marines loaded magazines into their rifles.
“Shooters commence fire once your target appears,” Beberniss said.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
As a primary marksmanship instructor for the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Beberniss coaches marines on their rifle placement, placement position and the fundamentals of marksmanship.
In May, Beberniss completed the combat marksmanship course unmodified as the base’s first Marine Corps amputee. He passed the rifle range course as an expert and the pistol range as a sharpshooter.
Now he trains other marines once every three months for their rifle and pistol qualification. Marines are required to complete a 15-day marksmanship course in order to graduate.
Kneeling down in the sand box, Beberniss showed one marine how to dig his knee into the sand as a cushion for stability.
“I would let you borrow my leg if I could,” Beberniss joked.
Beberniss lost his right foot following a July 2004 attack at the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq. Traveling with four others in a Hummer Highback, they were setting up a snap vehicle checkpoint to check vehicles for explosive devices. They didn’t know it, but they parked the car over a double stack anti tank mine that exploded. Beberniss sat in the bed of the vehicle just above the right rear tire. He recalls the mine launched him 60 meters away.
They flew him to the Naval Center Medical Hospital in San Diego. Doctors tried to save his leg and he tried to gain mobility, but he was in too much pain for 3 1/2 years.
“I was a puzzle piece,” he said. “They were trying to put everything back together.”
Wanting the pain to go away, he requested amputating his leg in January 2008.
“I’ve got little kids who say that I’ve got a robot leg, but that doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I joke around about it. I tell people I got bit by a shark.”
Beberniss enjoys coaching and inspiring marines.
“I’ve had people say that they are inspired,” he said. “I tell some of the junior marines, if I can do it, there is no reason why anybody else can’t do it.”
Cpl. Anthony Lewis has known Beberniss for seven months while working together in base operations.
“From day-to-day, he always has his head held up high,” Lewis said. “He always has a smile on. He is never down. I might come into work feeling down and he just gives me motivation to continue on.”
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