JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville native and soldier who was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in November needs the community's help.
The Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters hosted a benefit luncheon Friday for Josh Gillette, a United States Military Special Forces bomb sniffing dog handler.
"I'm doing great. I'm in good spirits today," Gillette said. "It's a good day today."
Gillette has done a tour of duty in Bosnia, two tours in Afghanistan, and four tours in Iraq. He spoke Friday via Skype from his home in Tennessee because he's recovering from his injuries.
Gillette's dad, David Gillette, is a Vietnam veteran and says he's so thankful his son is alive.
"My son was injured doing his job, nearly lost his life, and parents aren't supposed to bury their kids," David said.
While on a routine patrol for IEDs last October, Josh Gillette was slightly wounded when an IED exploded. He was still able to help another soldier who was severely injured.
About a month later, he was involved in a second explosion, which shattered his face and arms. His teeth were blown out and shrapnel left him with serious eye injuries.
Gillette was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where he had an extensive recovery. He was released last month to return home and continue his recovery.
Gillette's injuries have taken a tremendous toll on the soldier and his family, including his 8-year-old daughter, who was very upset about how her daddy looked.
"I asked her, 'Does daddy scare you?'" Gillette said. "She goes, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Is it because of the boo boos?' 'Yeah.' And I told her those boo boos will go away, but your daddy needs a hug right now."
Gillette's in line to receive two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for valor.
"The support we get from family, friends, just hometown fellow Americans, it's amazing the support we're getting," he said.
The fire union decided to come together to help Gillette.
"There are soldiers all over the world that give us the ultimate sacrifice, give their lives up for the defense of our country," said Randy Wyse, president of the fire union.
The union honored Gillette with a luncheon. All the proceeds are helping him and his family get through these difficult times.
If you would like to help Gillette and his family, click here.
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