Bullets flew by overhead just before 24-year-old Josh De Avila felt the impact in his back.
De Avila, a Marine serving in Afghanistan, wasn’t sure he’d been injured at first. Maybe the bullet just hit his armor plate.
“I didn’t see blood on my hand at first,” he said. “I reached back behind me again and pulled out my hand, and there was blood all over my hand.”
De Avila, a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, was out taking census data on July 10 when his group was ambushed.
After De Avila was hit, a medic came to his aid, and a helicopter was there within 10 minutes.
Someone found a phone, and De Avila got to call his father before the military contacted his family officially.
“I remember saying I had some good news and some bad news, or something like that,” De Avila said. “The good news is that I’ll be coming home soon. The bad news is I got shot in the back.”
He was shot twice — once in his back and once in his right arm — and he did get to come home. He’s recovering in Brasleton and surrounded by his family.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Kind of unreal.”
De Avila’s journey home took six days. After medics created a makeshift stretcher from a blanket and got him onto a helicopter, he flew to Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan. From there, he made his way to Bagram Airfield, where his uncle, who is a major in the Army, was there to meet him.
“He met me there when I got off the plane and stayed with me the whole night,” De Avila said.
De Avila traveled to Germany, and finally made it to the states on July 16. His homecoming has been a celebration full of community support.
The family church welcomed De Avila back with a grand procession. Flags lined the church’s driveway and banners touted the Marine’s arrival.
A large banner featuring a photo of De Avila graduating from the Marine Academy hangs on the family’s garage, and tiny American flags line the curb in front of their house.
Now, De Avila is catching up on his sleep and eating home-cooked food. He’s enjoying time with his brothers and sisters. And he thinks about his friends back in Afghanistan all the time.
“They’re all to bases now and they have Internet access,” he said. “I’ve been talking to them pretty frequently.”
Though he wanted to return home with his buddies, who will come back later this month, De Avila said he’s glad to be able to have some much needed family time. His father, Jerry De Avila, beams with pride when he talks about his son.
“He needs to relax after all of the stuff that he’s gone through, so it’s great to have him home,” Jerry De Avila said. “It’s just amazing what our Marines go through over there.”