Kyle Busch has received a lot of criticism throughout 2017, both from the media and fans, and Purple Heart recipient Chris Brunelle is sick of it.
Brunelle, who served in both the Marine Corps and National Guard over the course of his 23-year career, wants people to know that there’s more to Busch than what they see on TV, according to NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck. The 47-year-old veteran recently emailed Gluck, explaining that Busch and his father-in-law, Steve Sarcinella, “literally” saved his life.
“People don’t understand what these guys have done,” Brunelle told Gluck. “People want to see the bad and no one wants to see the good. I’ve seen so much bad in my life.”
After returning from his deployment, Brunelle struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, which ultimately pushed him to the brink of suicide.
A brief conversation with his daughter made him decide not to take his own life. When he turned on the TV later that day, Brunelle saw a story about Busch recovering from his leg injury in 2015 and going on to win the championship — and it reportedly was that story that made him turn his life around.
“I’ve seen a lot of people hurt and messed up, so you grow immune to stuff like that,” Brunelle said. “But I saw that story and the good lord meant for me to see it that day. It made something click inside. It made me think. And from that day on, it’s been different.”
The two previously had never met, but Brunelle sent the Joe Gibbs Racing driver his Purple Heart along with a letter that explained how Busch had helped him. Busch’s father-in-law gave “Rowdy” the idea to display the metal in the lobby of Kyle Busch Motorsports, and called Brunelle to tell him.
Sarcinella has talked to him every day since then, and he even invited Brunelle to last year’s race at Kentucky Speedway.
“He doesn’t have to do it, but he does it,” Brunelle said. “If it hadn’t been for them two, I’d probably be a statistic right now.”
Thumbnail photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images
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