Courtesy photo Josh McKee (center), a 2006 Lake Placid High School graduate, was hit by gunfire Sept. 20 while serving in his second deployment to Afghanistan.
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published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
McKee: All I could think about was getting back to them
By ROMONA WASHINGTON
LAKE PLACID -- As the gunfire continued to close in on him and he looked back at his buddy, all Josh McKee could think about was getting out of there safe so he could get home to his young wife and parents again.
That was seven weeks ago and though he's home now for a short time, he has a long road to recovery after losing most of his right hamstring muscle in gunfire in Afghanistan on Sept. 20.
The 25-year-old is extremely humble. As he is thanked for serving our country, he responds that it's just what he does.
McKee attended Lake Placid High School and was named to the All-County baseball team. He graduated in 2006 and went on to get his AA degree at South Florida State College in hopes of getting a good job in the area. Unfortunately, that was about the time the economy headed south and jobs in Highlands County became scarce.
"I really didn't have anything else to do, so I went in and talked to a recruiter. I knew from the beginning that infantry was what I wanted to do if I was going to go in," he said.
McKee took the entrance test and was told he could pretty much go in any division he wanted. He wanted infantry, and that's where he went.
Amanda joked that was best for Josh, because he doesn't like to sit at a desk.
McKee spent three months in Parris Island, S.C. at boot camp. He then went to the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C. and was assiged to the 3rd Battalion/8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Josh and Amanda Screws met at a Fourth of July cookout in 2009. The next day, Josh went back to North Carolina. For the next 364 days, Amanda spent a lot of long weekends in North Carolina. They were married July 3, 2010.
This was Josh's second deployment to Afghanistan.
During his first deployment, Josh was on foot patrol, and in front of his group serving as leader and point man since there were only a few of them when hw stepped on an improvised explosive device, or IED. Fortunately it was faulty.
"The blasting cap went off and a puff of dirt came up between my legs when I stepped on it," he said. A bomb disposal unit rushed in and told Josh to back away.
They dug up a jug with 20 pounds of explosives in it.
"That was a really wierd day," he said. He served in Afghanistan about nine months before he would be sent back to the States.
He was in the States just shy two days of a year before he was sent back for his second deployment. At the time of his incident, he had been in Afghanistan for five of the seven months he was supposed to be there.
He said the American troops partner a lot with the Afghanistan soldiers, letting them do as much as possible.
In his humble way, Josh said he was in charge of his post on Sept. 20, a more gentle way of saying he was acting squad leader. He had received a call to come down to the entrance of the fixed operations base. Their job, basically, was to assist as needed those coming into the camp.
"The Afghanistan army guys had stopped a Pakistan guy who had come in. They were getting him fingerprinted to make sure there were no hits on him. Then another Afghanistan guy comes in on a dirt bike," Josh said. He and a fellow Marine and an Afghanistan translator began walking to the motorcyclist to find out what he needed.
"It all felt really wierd. It just didn't feel right. The way he brushed his hand through his hair was just wierd. Then when we were about 30 meters from him, he rocks his AK back. I tried to take cover, but the closest cover was actually between us. I had to run toward him about 10 feet," Josh said.
As Josh reached cover, he looked behind him for his Marine buddy. "Rounds were hitting all over the ground around him. I yelled at him to get up there with me. By the time he got to me, he just laid out. He couldn't do anything," he recalls.
Josh knew he still had to deal with the insurgent who had posed as an Afghan ally. He told the Afghanistan to go one way and he would go the other. Josh was shot in the right leg, but the gunman went down as well. As he did, Josh said, the gunman's body exploded.
Once he knew the area was secured, Josh radioed in that he and a fellow Marine were injured. The security team came in and put a tourniquet on Josh's leg.
"I didn't think it was too bad. It felt like a punch when I was hit. I was more concerned they get my buddy help," he said.
What he thought was only a bullet hole on the back of his leg turned out to be the back part of his hamstring that had been blown away.
Josh and his 19-year-old comrade were both flown to the hospital. Josh has had four surgeries; his buddy, who received two gunshots in a leg and one in the stomach, has had more.
It took four days after his injury for Josh to make it back to the States and another two weeks in the hospital before he was released. His wife and parents, Marty and Jackie McKee, rushed up to be at his side. His parents returned to Lake Placid after a few days, but Amanda stayed behind.
"I wouldn't have been able to make it without her there," Josh said as he looked at his wife.
The damage to his leg has made it difficult to walk. "The loss of nerve has made it so my foot doesn't work right, and it's very painful," he said.
Josh's future is uncertain. For now he has physical therapy three times a week, trying to improve the range of motion in his foot. He has been told to expect about a year of physical therapy.
Amanda said one of the things that irritates them the most is the large number of "people who think it's all over. Our men and women are going out on patrols all the time. We still have people over there but you never hear anything about them on the news anymore. In the backs of their mind every day, they wonder if they are putting their own lives on the line."
Josh, a lance corporal, returns to Virginia next week for a follow-up appointment with doctors. He will learn then what the next steps will be, but already knows he will be promoted to the rank of corporal.
"A lot of people talk about seeing their life pass before their eyes when they face something like I did. All I could think about as it was happening, was the things closest to me ... my wife, my parents, my sister.
"All I could think about was getting out of there and back to them."
Thank you (by: Military Mom - 11/13/2012)
I agree, The NewSun needs to address our local soldiers more than for injuries and being deceased. Speedy recovery for you Josh. I have a son in Afghanistan and pray everyday that he and his fellow soliders come on safely. GOD bless them and the families of our military.
SO MANY THANKS (by: Thankful to be American - 11/12/2012)
WE CAN NEVER THANK YOU AND EVERY SERVICE MEMBER ENOUGHT.
Serviceman McKee (by: lhunt - 11/12/2012)
I humbly thank you for your service to our country, your courage to do what you do and that you are doing it to keep us safer. I am an ex-military wife, sister, mother and daughter and granddaughter of military men who have served and have a grandson serving now in the Marines. May you all stay safe and may God bless you in your recovery and your family as well. Thank you so much!
Josh McKee (by: Donna - 11/12/2012)
Thank you for your service and we pray that you will have a strong and speedy recovery. We have 3 sons, all military and we think of all you soldiers daily and pray for your safety. Thank you so much for being the type of person that will step up and do. Again, we military families are very aware that our soldiers are still fighting.
Many Thanks! (by: Jennifer - 11/11/2012)
I literally can't thank you, the many other service men and woman and their families for what you continually do for us. Your service means that I am free, and for that i am eternally greatfull!
.... (by: unknown - 11/11/2012)
Newssun it is sad that a local citizen in the military has to either get killed or injured before you even acknowledge there existence... good luck marine in your recovery
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