Master Chief Carl Maxie Brashear
January 19, 1931 - July 25, 2006
For anyone who has seen the movie Men of Honor, you were treated to a glimspe into the life of a remarkable man. Master Chief Carl Brashear was the first Navy diver to be restored to full active duty as an amputee. Four years after the accident, he earned the Master Diver Certification. He was the first African-American deepsea diver and the first Master Diver. He is one of seven enlisted men to be enshrined in the Naval Archives with an extensive oral history.
Carl Brashear, son of Kentucky sharecroppers, enlisted in the Navy in 1948. In 1954, he became a diver. In 1966, he was well on his way to becoming a Master Diver when an accident almost cost him his life. When two U. S. Air force planes collided off of the coast of Spain, a nuclear warhead was lost in the sea. The salvage ship Hoist was sent to retrieve the weapon. During the retreval process, a large pipe struck his leg, which led to an eventual amputation. Unwilling to give up on his dream, and, in spite of the Navy's wish to retire him, Carl Brashear fought the pain and the difficulty of being an amputee to be restored to full active duty. He retired from the Navy in 1979, after more than 30 years of service. After his retirement, Brashear lived in Virginia Beach and became a pen pal to numerous amputees, some of whom would write or call him seeking solace. His advice to them was simple: The limbless need not be listless.
Carl Brashear is survived by three of his sons: CWO4 Phillip Brashear, a helicopter pilot who returned from Iraq on emergency leave for his father's final days, DeWayne Brashear, and Patrick Brashear.
“He taught people world-wide that your race, your gender, your religion, none of that makes any difference,” said Phillip. “You can achieve your goals, you can be held accountable to your characteristics as a person not by the color of your skin.”
Carl Brashear is an inspiration to all and a testament to determination and hard work. His was a life worth knowing about.