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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. John C. Hootsell joined the military in August 2008. Following Marine Combat Training (MCT) and Combat Engineer School, Hootsell joined the1st CEB, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. In June 2010, Hootsell underwent a lobectomy in which 85% of his right lung was removed. His surgery prevented him from partaking in what would have been his first deployment in October 2010.
Determined to make the next deployment, Hootsell extended his service to January 2013. In April 2012, he deployed to Afghanistan as a Combat Engineer. Retrieving nine improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Hootsell was involved in four IED blasts before being injured. On September 3, 2012, with only one month worth of missions left, Hootsell was on a mission to secure a village in Helmand Province, Afghanistan that was known as a terrorist stronghold. He and the men in his MRAP Buffalo vehicle found themselves in a large ambush during which they hit a 300-lb. IED after preventing another truck full of men from an explosion. The blast from the IED sent the vehicle tumbling through the air and landing on its side.
Hootsell awoke from a coma on September 8, 2012 in Landshut, Germany with multiple injuries, including spinal cord damage, a cervical injury, his left heel shattered into his tibia on impact, a fractured sternum, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. Hootsell retired from the military on June 29, 2014.
As a result of his bravery he received multiple awards, including a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon. He is still in the process of recovering from all of his injuries and will soon undergo surgery for his back after his retirement. Hootsell currently lives with his wife, Brandie, in San Antonio, Texas. They hope to start a family soon.