Lance Corporal Gabriel R. Gehr poses with wife Kaitlyn. Gehr was wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2013. (Submitted photo)
Lance Corporal Gabriel R. Gehr poses with wife Kaitlyn. Gehr was wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2013. (Submitted photo)

DELPHOS — Lance Corporal Gabriel R. Gehr didn’t see it coming. While on patrol at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, an 82 millimeter anti-tank rocket landed in the compound and exploded less than 10 meters away from him, sending shrapnel ripping into his left forearm, left rib cage near his lung and through his left calf.

On November 20, 2013, Gehr and two other Marines wounded in the attack were flown by Black Hawks out of the British military base and then transported by C-17 to Bagrum for surgery. By Thanksgiving, he was in Germany undergoing additional surgery and then flown into the states, first landing at Andrews Airforce Base and then transported to Camp Pendleton in California.

Gehr has experienced more in his short lifetime of 21 years than many will ever comprehend; however, he does have one thing in common with a limited number of brave individuals -- he was awarded the Purple Heart.

During a ceremony on May 5 at Camp Pendleton, Brigadier General Vincent A. Coglianese, commanding general, 1st Marine Logistics Group (MLG), pinned the medal on Corporal Gehr who was awarded the accommodation after sustaining injuries while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. The Battilion of 12,000 Marines were all in attendance and congratulated him.

“I’m very proud to receive The Purple Heart,” Corporal Gehr said in earnest. “I represent the ones that could not make it home.”

Gehr has maintained full duty, has worked through a lot of physical therapy and is getting healthy.

“The shrapnel went through my leg and there was a lot of muscle damage and some nerve damage,” Gehr explained. “I have to get more mobile and I can’t run yet.”

He said getting home was chaotic and he had to be cleared medically to go.

“I finally got to see my wife on December 24,” Gehr said. “Right in time for Christmas.”

He said when he arrived back to Delphos, everybody asked how he was and it seemed everyone knows everyone.

After returning to California, Gehr said he’s been overwhelmed with medical appointments.

“I just wanted to be left alone and see my family,” he added. “It was scary.”

Now, his wife Kaitlyn and newest member of the family, Logan, a Yorkie Terrier, are living with him in California.

Gehr said he would like to fulfill his dreams and make a career in the Marines as a drill instructor and receive his bachelor’s in Accounting, which may take 8-10 years.

“I’d like to do 20 years on the enlisted side and 20 years on the officer’s side,” he added. “It all depends on the economy and job availability.”

Gehr joined the Marines in May of 2012 and spent three months at Paris Island, South Carolina, in boot camp and then attended Marine Combat Training (MCT) in North Carolina learning how to perform patrols and use weaponry like machine guns. Following his MCT, Gehr spent five months training as a generator mechanic and graduated in February 2013.

“I wanted to be a part of something elite and be a part of a proud fighting force,” Gehr added. “Less than one percent earn the title.”

From there he met up with the 1st Maintenance Battalion in California and was deployed to Afghanistan to help Georgians with retro-grading equipment, patrolling and providing security for the Afghan people.

“When stationed in Afghanistan, we lived off the land with the bare minimum to survive,” he detailed. “That’s what we are trained to do; be mobile.”