Hometown Hero: Combat veteran beginning new life

To contribute to the Alex Juedes Recovery Fund, to www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/jg04/alex-juedes-rehab-fund.

The war in Afghanistan may be ending, but recovery from his wounds is just beginning for Lance Cpl. Alex Juedes of Marietta, a combat veteran who performed another heroic act by emphatically telling the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Maj. Gen. James F. Amos, that a man still in the combat zone deserved to be honored, too.

After Amos personally pinned on Juedes’ Purple Heart in February, the 21-year-old former soccer star told the top the nation’s top Marine that Navy Corpsman Jacob Schlauder had saved his life — and deserved to be honored, too.

That takes chutzpah — and a lot of guts.

A few days later, Amos flew to Afghanistan to award Schlauder the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a “V” for valor.

“That’s a big deal,” said Marine Lt. Col. David Nevers.

Schlauder was cited for saving Juedes’ life at the risk of his own during combat.

“The Navy corpsman saved my life, and I told the Commandant that,” Juedes said. “The (rocket propelled grenade) severed my femoral artery. He applied tourniquets or I would have bled to death right there.”

Juedes said he’s not sure whether he’ll get out of the Corps after more surgeries and rehabilitation, and if he does he’ll join his fiancée, Casey Kamm of Powder Springs at the University of West Georgia.

“I am missing over half my hand, thumb and index and middle fingers,” he said. “I am right handed and that’s where the injuries are. But I’m leaning toward saying in.”

That would take a lot of courage, Casey said, “but he’s always been strong.”

Juedes’ former soccer coach, Brian Gochoel, now coaching in Washington state, said he’s not surprised by Alex’s “bravery and sacrifice.” At Hillgrove High in Cobb County, “he was one of the hardest working players on the squad.”

Juedes said he had reason to think an attack was imminent because he noticed that Afghans in the area of his armored vehicle suddenly disappeared while a nearby platoon was under fire.

“It was a bad day but it could have been a lot worse,” he chuckled.

Juedes’ mom, Karen Dunlap, has visited him often at the Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Family friends Dan and Kimberly Sheats of Marietta, who have known Juedes his whole life, said the young man joined the Marines because his father was one, and his grandfather served in the Navy.

“He doesn’t think he deserves to be honored,” Sheats said. “He’ll do well at whatever he does.”

Kimberly has set up a fund-raising website to which people can contribute.

The GiveForward organization charges a small fee and has helped distribute $85 million over the past six years.

Alex’s father, Greg Juedes, 39, said he anticipated the worst when his ex-wife called him to deliver news from the Marines.

“You don’t pay much attention after the first few words,” he said “I thought I was getting a death notice. I’m very thankful.”