Thursday, August 05, 2010

Face of Defense: Family Ties Help Wounded Marine

By Army Staff Sgt. Donald Reeves 

Combined Joint Task Force 101
POL–E-CHARKI, Afghanistan : When Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gerardo "Josh" DeAvila was wounded in Marja, Afghanistan, July 10, he was half a world away from home. But he quickly was surrounded by family and friends, due to a strong military family and community.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gerardo "Josh" DeAvila, left, poses with, left to right, his cousin, Army Staff Sgt. David DeAvila; his father, Army Sgt. Jerry DeAvila of the Georgia National Guard; his brother-in-law, Army Spc. Josh Head; and his uncle, Army Maj. David DeAvila. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
DeAvila, assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion of the 6th Regiment, heard shots fired and then felt what he described as "a baseball bat" hitting him. Shortly after a medic came around, DeAvila saw the blood and realized he had been hit.
He was evacuated to Camp Dwyers and then Bagram Airfield for surgery. Doctors discovered he had been shot twice; one bullet missed major arteries in his arm, and the other barely missed his spinal cord and lodged in his pelvis.
Meanwhile, Army Maj. David DeAvila of Holland, Mich., serving in northeastern Afghanistan, received word from home that his nephew had been hurt.
"I myself am on orders with the 82nd Airborne attached to the 101st at Camp Blackhorse as the day shift chief of operations," the major said. "I received text messages from the States that Josh had been hurt and would be headed to Germany."
Major DeAvila cleared it through his chain of command to arrange transport to Bagram to be with his nephew.
"I was able to spend 12 hours with him, feeding him water and juice through a straw and helping to keep him comfortable," he said. "I sat by his bed the entire night."
The DeAvilas are a close-knit, very pro-military family, the major said. "It was a bit difficult for me to see him in that condition. ... I held Josh the same day he was born," he recalled. "In fact, my son David, a staff sergeant in the Army, and Josh are more like brothers than cousins. Josh's father recently joined the National Guard after being out of the military for 20 years.
Major DeAvila said Josh kept waking up, asking if his uncle was comfortable. He said he told his nephew, "I have been in the Army longer than you have been alive. Don't worry about me."
Major DeAvila helped to transport his nephew to the bus that would take him to the flightline. There, a plane awaited that would carry him to Germany for more surgery.
Once in Germany, the lance corporal got another surprise. The chaplain who came to visit him was Chaplain (Col.) Douglas Kinder. Kinder had married his parents as a civilian pastor in Roswell, Ga.
The young Marine now is recovering at home in Braselton, Ga.
"Everyone I tell this story to is amazed at the coincidences," Major DeAvila said. "It is amazing how God orchestrated the little pieces." (Issued on:Aug. 4, 2010)