October 6, 2011
In a San Diego hospital, Corporal Joshua Hotaling held a content smile while wearing a shirt that read: Combat Marine, Some Assembly Required. The young Marine lost both legs in Afghanistan when he accidentally stepped onto an IED earlier this year. Now, with one shoe where his knee was and the other on a temporary prosthetic, he proudly wears his shirt and keeps dreaming about his future. The humorous side of Josh that was always admired by his fellow Marines is now aiding in his recovery of the wartime injury.
On September 11, 2010 Coporal Hotaling reenlisted and was deployed to Afghanistan on March 20, 2011. Less than two months later on May 13, Joshuas life changed after stepping on a buried Improvised Explosive Device
while on a mission to secure a building.
I was using a metal detector to sweep out an abandoned compound so we could stay there for the night and set up an OP [observation post]. I stepped on a 10-12lb IED, Joshua said recounting the days events.
It was an older one. One that had a non-metallic pressure plate which made it harder for the detectors to pick up, he continued.
What began as a regular day in the scorching heat of the dawning Afghanistan summer became an unforgettable and life changing moment for Corporal Hostaling. Despite the severity of the explosion and life altering consequences, he is now completely focused on his rehabilitation and plan for the future.
Family Legacy in the Armed Forces
Joshua Hotaling was born on March 3, 1987 in Sacramento, California and grew up in the nearby suburb of Roseville. His grandfather and uncle both served in the Air Force, and later, his twin brother Troy joined the Marines in 2005.
I wanted to join [the Marines] in high school, he said, but didnt once I graduated. Being a twin, it seemed inevitable that his brothers actions would have an impact on him one way or the other. It certainly did.
After I saw my brother graduate from boot camp, I enlisted, he continued. In early 2006 I signed the papers and left for boot camp on April 2.
Troy Hotalings graduation from boot camp was a crucial factor in Joshs decision to enlist. Additionally, due to the ongoing war and uncertainty in the Middle East, he wanted to be there for his country. I wanted to serve my country in a combat zone, he said.
In late 2006, after finishing boot camp, his career as a Marine began to take shape. Josh had originally enlisted with the infantry and was stationed on the West Coast as well as the East Coast. He later joined the security forces where he trained and worked with those he became closest with. Josh spent part of his career working at Camp David outside of Washington, D.C.
Before the events that transpired in May during his time in Afghanistan, Corporal Hotaling had another close call.
He was training at a military school in Bridgeport, CA in the middle of 2010, learning to pack mules. Mules are a common form of transportation in the Middle East and if he were deployed, the skill would prove beneficial.
The mule he was working with was spooked and violently kicked Josh in the head. The force crushed part of his skull into his brain and nearly ripped his right ear off. This incident left him with 8 metal plates and 40 screws in his head.
It seemed as if his Marine career would be cut short due to the severe head injury, but after therapy and further medical examination, he was cleared and re-enlisted on September 11, 2010.
and leadership drove him through his recovery, motivating him to continue his service with the Marines. Several of his friends stated that Josh was born for the Marines. It suited him well.
Several months after re-enlisting, he deployed to Afghanistan as a team leader for his squad. Less than two months later, his life took a new direction and he woke up in Europe.
When I woke up in Germany and saw my mom, my first thought was thank God Im alive, he said. I hoped my mistake of stepping on the IED hadnt hurt anyone else, he added.
Perhaps it was the brotherhood mentality formed after years with the same Marines, but his first concern was for his team and not the injuries he sustained.
After gaining strength in Germany, he left and began the first stages of his recovery in Bethesda, MD.
I asked Josh if he still wouldve re-enlisted if he had known what was going to happen to him.
Yes I would have re-enlisted. I couldnt live with myself if I hadnt during a time of crisis, he said.
Positive Perspective on Recovery
Josh has a very supportive group of people around him. They are there for him on the good days and the bad. His mother and aunt spent two months with him while he was in Germany, and during his stay in Maryland, Marines from base and those he had worked with at Camp David visited him on a regular basis.
Josh is now in San Diego, still recovering from the life changing moment that happened over four months ago.
My brother, who is a Sergeant in the Marines and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a big support for me while Im living in San Diego. All of my fellows Marines who are stationed at Camp Pendleton are great support, Corporal Hotaling said.
His recovery and rehabilitation is a tiring ordeal, learning to walk with prosthetics takes not only physical but mental strength as well.
I usually try to spend five hours in the physical therapy gym, where Im getting better at walking and am improving my gait, he said.
I also spend an hour a day doing occupational therapy to work on my messed up right hand, he told me. The explosion also injured his hand and Josh is diligently working with physical therapists as well as occupational therapists, relearning how to use what many may take for granted.
I just keep progressing through my therapy and look towards the future, he said. He is determined to adapt to this change and make the best of the situation.
When Josh is not spending long hours in the gym and with physical therapists, hes taking college classes to complete his Associates Degree. Its a way for him to continue where he left off before the accident, spending his time studying like most college students and figuring out what he wants to do in life.
It may have seemed his stint with the Marines was over after the IED; however, he received paperwork authorizing him to further his work in the USMC and transfer out of infantry. At the moment hes not sure if he will continue but it is an excellent opportunity for a diligent, hard-working, and optimistic Marine. If Josh chooses to continue, he will likely work within the intelligence department.
Despite having bad days when his injuries become the major focus, he has made it clear that he will not let the past consume him. Is it a drastic and tragic change? Yes, but he knows he is still capable of doing much more and presses forward each day.
I stay focused when seeing other Marines working to improve their lives. So I do the same, Josh said.
True marines never quit or give up. We are fighters to the end.
Further Reading about Survivors
There have been many stories of survival
Veterans may need the help of those at home. For ways to assist injured veterans, visit the Disabled American Veteran