OAK CREEK -- When many of the nation's service men and women return home from duty, it's not always for good. Alexander Kobza is an Army combat medic who is not even old enough to drink -- yet he came home a Purple Heart recipient, and later continued his service. FOX6's Chip Brewster shares Kobza's story in FOX6 News segment "Heroes Come Home."
Influenced by his grandfather's military service, 20-year-old Kobza enlisted right out of high school as an active Army combat medic.
"It`s just something that I kind of wanted to do to kickstart my life I guess -- instead of just jumping into college and working at McDonalds and being a poor college kid," Kobza said.
Jim Wolf, Kobza's high school teacher says Kobza's determination and ambition is something he admires.
"Some kids two, three, four years after high school will be living in their mom and dad`s basement. He`s not one of those kids. He`s a kid who you could tell wanted to make an impact or wanted to have a serious purpose," Wolf said.
Kobza's mother, Glory says the Army changed her son.
"It's matured him. I always say I gave the Army a really good kid, and they've given me back a really good man," Glory Kobza said.
After a year-and-a-half of service, Kobza was deployed to Afghanistan last March. It was there the harsh realities of war set in. Several of Kobza's friends were injured in combat.
"My friend Stokes stepped on an IED early in the deployment and lost his legs. Right now he's in San Antonio recovering," Kobza said.
Others were killed.
"It was heartbreaking when I would hear about his friends losing legs or losing their lives. I mean, I cried. I cried with him," Glory Kobza said.
On the morning of August 27th, while on patrol, Kobza was injured.
"I saw the bullets like hit the wall past me, then I felt one hit me. I probably got hit by like the third or fourth bullet fired and I just kind of stumbled forward to the ground and then crawled out of the way," Kobza said.
Kobza's buddies were there to help him.
"I was picked up by four of my guys and carried probably about 300 meters, 200 meters back to the strikers," Kobza said.
Kobza was shot in the lower back. The bullet bounced off his pelvis and tore his colon.
"I woke up from surgery and asked if I could go back out with my guys when I recover. I was like 'are they going to make me go home?' They're like 'yep' and I was like 'no, I don`t want to go,'" Kobza said.
Kobza then had to make one of the most difficult calls of his life -- a call no mother wants to receive.
"He said 'mom, don't freak out,' and I said 'what?' 'Mom, don't freak out.' 'What?' 'Mom, promise me you won't freak out.' I said 'What's wrong? Are you okay?' He said 'well, I got shot,' and then I freaked out," Glory Kobza said.
Kobza was lucky. The bullet missed all of his vital organs. He was back in the United States within a matter of days -- though at first it wasn't much of a homecoming when he returned to Fort Lewis, Washington.
"When my guys get back, they're going to have this like, huge thing for like, coming back from Afghanistan. When I got shot and got medevac'd I like, got back to the states and some guy I don`t even know was like 'hey welcome home.' I was like 'thanks. Who are you?'" Kobza said.
It was a much different story one week later when Kobza finally landed in Milwaukee. Kobza arrived to family, friends and the Brew City based 484th Army band. He was only home a month before putting the uniform back on and rejoining his unit. Despite being shot, Kobza's family has never second-guessed his choice to join or continue with the military.
"I don't regret anything. I don't regret joining the Army. I don't regret going there to Afghanistan. I don't regret anything," Kobza said.
Kobza is back at Fort Lewis, just outside of Tacoma, Washington. He is now part of a rear detachment waiting for his unit to finish their tour in Afghanistan. Kobza still has two years left on his first contract. At this point, he's not sure whether he'll re-enlist or return to civilian life.
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