Born and raised in Jefferson County, where he graduated from Fox High School in 2008, LCpl. David “Moose” McArthur was active in the Boy Scouts, played football, enjoyed the outdoors and hunting with his dad. Indeed, from a young age, Moose knew that he was either going to play football in the NFL or be a US Marine. By his junior year in high school, he knew the time to pick a path was drawing close. After a visit to a Marine recruiter, however, he learned that his 315-pound, football-playing body would need to be slimmed down significantly to enlist. As a result, he continued his football path a bit longer.
Eventually, as high school drew to a close, Moose chose the Marine Corps over college football scholarships (and endured a crash diet and intense workout program to drop from 315 to 185 pounds). His next steps in fulfilling his Marine Corps dream were stepping on the iconic “yellow footprints” at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego on September 1, 2008. Just a few weeks shy of 19 years old, Moose became a recruit in 2nd Battalion, Hotel Company, Platoon 2163.
Moose’s MOS was 0311, rifleman, and he relished his time during SOI (School of Infantry) learning to shoot, move, communicate, fire military weapons, tactics, “blowing things up,” and just being in the field with his brother infantry Marines. After SOI graduation, Moose was sent to 29 Palms, California where he was placed in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. While in 3/7, in 2009, Moose was married to his hometown girlfriend and shortly thereafter found out he was going to be a dad. With this exciting news, also came disappointment, as he learned he would be deployed for the birth of his first child.
In early 2010, Moose shipped out for Afghanistan to spearhead the Marine Corps’ push into Helmand Province, where no other US units had gone before. Their missions included patrols, raids, security and surveillance ops, and efforts to form relationships with the locals. They started at Camp Leatherneck and pushed their way down through the Helmand Province, facing numerous IED attacks along the way. As harrowing as that trip was, however, once they entered Sangin, everything changed. Sangin was an enemy stronghold, which would not be easy to pacify. More IED blasts resulted in multiple casualties, lost vehicle after lost vehicle, and injuries too numerous to remember. Moose himself was involved in 5 separate IED blasts.
On May 13, 2010, Moose was hit by his final IED blast. He was with two other Marines in the second vehicle in a convoy when a remote detonated IED, with about 240 pounds of explosives, blew up under his vehicle. Moose and his two Marine brothers were medevacked to hospitals in Afghanistan. Anxious to return to his Marine brothers still in the fight, Moose tried to downplay his symptoms. However, the doctors could not explain his slurred speech, balance issues, headaches, among other injuries. CT scans conducted in Landstuhl, Germany confirmed his serious internal injuries, as well as a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Soon after, Moose was ordered back home, via Walter Reed, to 29 Palms. For Moose, it was a form of “blessing” as his return home allowed him to be present for the birth of his first daughter, Heidi.
The Marine Corps decided that Moose was no longer able to fight. Still feeling he could continue to serve, Moose investigated other branches of service. With his severe injuries, however, no other branch would accept him. In January 2013, about 30 months after his injuries, Moose was retired from the Corps because of his brain injuries.
Moose’s battles have continued since leaving the Corps. At that time, TBIs were still very new and solutions to alleviate the symptoms were elusive. But even more painful was the lack of understanding, even from his fellow Marines, about the extent of his injuries. TBIs are not visible, but their effects are debilitating, as Moose, and countless other survivors of IED blasts have experienced.
With his family watching him struggle day in and day out, without a solution in sight, Moose’s greatest advocate, his father, David McArthur, Sr., began fighting for his son. David, Sr. has spent countless efforts working to raise awareness of TBI injuries and seek solutions for military veterans living with the effects of multiple blasts from battle. He need look no further than his son to know that more had to be done. Even after being blessed with two more children, Kamden and Nova, Moose has continued to deal with daily headaches, intense migraines, and the pain of other injuries suffered during the blasts he endured in battle. At times, the post-war battles were too difficult to bear. Moose attempted suicide and, as a result, lost his marriage.
Moose, your new JCS family understands the battles you have endured and the fight that is yet to come. We welcome you and the entire McArthur family, especially Heidi, Kamden, and Nova, and look forward to helping you move forward, inch-by-inch.