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Staff Sgt. David Payton enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2001 as an Infantryman immediately after graduating from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. Payton was assigned to 3rd Battalion 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
During his military service, Payton deployed to Japan, Haiti, Republic of Georgia and Iraq. While in Iraq on Iraqi Election Day in 2005, his compound was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). The RPG struck a chemical tank near Payton and it exploded, immersing him with a chemical that was believed to be ammonia. The ammonia severely burned his eyes, his lungs, airways and body. Payton was medically evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, along with three other Marines. While at BAMC, he was in a coma for two weeks as well as on life support, leaving his doctors and his family with little hope that he would survive this uncommon injury.
Payton lost his vision as a result of the incident. After several failed eye surgeries from 2005 to 2011, he was pronounced legally blind in both eyes. In addition to his blindness, he has decreased lung capacity as well as frequent bouts of pneumonia, among other injuries. Determined to continue his career in the Marine Corps, Payton fought to remain in service. In 2008, he was found “fit for duty” by the Naval Medical Evaluation Board and was able to retain his job in Infantry. Payton medically retired from the military in 2010.
Due to his honorable service, Payton was honored with multiple awards, including a Purple Heart and two Combat Action Ribbons. He currently lives in Canton, Georgia, with his wife, Heather, and their seven children, Nathan Allen, 9; Callie Alyssa, 9; Taylor Ann, 7; David Allen Jr., 5; Grace Ann, 3; Faith Alyssa, 1; and Hope Angel, 1. The family is very active within their church community in Woodstock, Georgia, and they will soon begin their ministry, “Love of Christ,” at their church.