First Lt. Brian Brennan has virtually no memory of the roadside bomb that blew up his world in a mass of flames and smoke in early May.

He was traveling in Afghanistan as the officer in charge of a convoy when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive device.

An estimated 25 pounds of bomb material detonated in an instant, producing a blast so powerful that it killed three other soldiers riding with him. Only Brennan and the driver survived.

"It split my Humvee in half," said Brennan, a member of the storied 101st Airborne Division.

Today, the 2006 graduate of The Citadel is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where the physical therapy is rigorous, the pain long-term. Brennan, 24, lost his legs as a result of the attack. They had to be amputated, one above the knee and one below it.

Brennan represents the latest crop of American vets called on to fight in a distant, barren land. In many ways, the battle is like all other wars against an entrenched enemy constantly testing more devious methods to strike and cause casualties.

But in other ways, it isn't. The GIs in Afghanistan must win an ancient people's hearts and minds, something Brennan said has to be proven difficult across a deep cultural divide. The civilian in front of you one day might be the fighter facing you the next, he said.

"It's not going to be easy," he said of the mission. "You don't see the enemy, it's just there."

Looking past his injuries, Brennan has a positive, almost "gung-ho" outlook about the mission and the men he served with. And though Veterans Day means something more to him this year than it did in years past, he is quick to deflect attention away from himself to others who also served in uniform.

"It's just a sign of respect," he said. "To respect those who served."

Next weekend, as part of The Citadel's homecoming, Brennan will return to campus to meet old friends, speak with cadets and be inducted into the school's Arland D. Williams Society. The award honors Citadel alumni who have "displayed bravery, great courage in the face of adversity" or who have served their communities in a distinguished manner.