Marine Who Survived Las Vegas, Thousand Oaks Shootings Deployed to Afghanistan
First, Brendan Kelly survived the October 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev. Just over a year later, he survived another one, this time at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Now, the 22-year-old is deploying to Afghanistan for his first tour of duty in the Marine Corps.
According to an interview in the New York Times, Kelly was inspired to sign up for the reserves in 2015, after two of his older brothers enlisted. His grandfather served, too.
Kelly emerged from both tragedies a hero: In Las Vegas, he saved the life of a woman he'd just met that evening. After the shooting at Borderline, he stayed behind for hours to help the wounded and look for the people he'd been inside with before the gunfire broke out -- two of who were among the dead.
Even after experiencing two horrific events, Kelly tells the Times that he never wavered in his decision to join the Marines: "God has big plans for me, and I know that," he explains.
"Even though I've been through all these events, I am just a guy that's trying to figure it out like everybody else at the end of the day. And try to make sense of it all," he adds. "It's going to be okay that it doesn't make sense, because there's no real way for it to make sense."
In fact, Kelly adds, his experience with mass shootings only strengthened his commitment to serve.
"This is what I can do," he continues. "This is what my role is supposed to be, as an able-bodied and willing young man."
Remembering the Borderline Bar & Grill Shooting's 12 Victims
Of course, that doesn't mean that Kelly wasn't shaken by the shootings. His father, Ryan Kelly, expresses concern about the pressure his son is under, saying that he sometimes jumps at the sound of bubble wrap popping and explaining, "I am concerned that he's going to get over there and that's when it's all going to come down on him."
Kelly still struggles with the memories of the horrific events, as well as with survivor's guilt. "There have been nightmares; it's something I can't really control," he says. "I wake myself up and shake myself out of it, and write it down and maybe even talk about it.
"Mostly replaying the terrible things that happened that night ... and potentially what could have happened," he explains of his nightmares about the Borderline shooting. Kelly spent time in therapy after the Las Vegas attack, but ultimately found more solace in talking to his friends and family. His commanding officer checks in with him often, too.
"There is no rhyme or reason, and, for me right, now it's enough to be living," Kelly adds, explaining that he never considered delaying his service. In fact, ever since surviving the Route 91 shooting in 2017, Kelly has been adamant about not letting fear of another attack derail his life. He continued going to concerts and festivals, and continuing with his plans to serve in the Marines, he says, is an even more important way of maintaining control of his life, even after tragedy.
Remembering the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Victims