Marine helping other Marines achieve dreams through program

Michael Fox, father started wounded Marine Fund

SAN DIEGO - A Camp Pendleton Marine is back in the water after he was injured in Afghanistan thanks to a fellow Marine who is helping him achieve his dreams.

Cpl. Josh Hotaling has been surfing since he joined the Marine Corps in 2006. This year, he does it a little differently. First, he gets to the water on a wheelchair. Then, he goes out tandem on a long board. 

That is because he lost both of his legs and part of his right hand.  He was sweeping out an abandoned house in Sangin, Afghanistan so his crew could have somewhere to sleep when he triggered an improvised explosive device.

"I didn't feel any pain," Hotaling said. "My body went into shock right away, and once I tried to get up, I realized I didn't have my legs anymore."

At just 25 years old, he has endured 23 surgeries.

"At first I was a little hesitant in start going back out," said Hotaling, who was referring to surfing. "I figured it wouldn't be fun... I mean, I didn't really see how you could surf without legs."

It will get easier and Cpl. Michael Fox will see to it. 

"I know exactly how they feel and they know how I feel," Fox said. "They just want to get back to as normal life as they can."

It has been one year since Fox was in Afghanistan. He was rocked by the reality he also lost his legs. 

He spoke to us when he returned and was determined to find the good. 

"This isn't anything that's going to hold me back," he said in 2011. "If anything it's going to make me want to do more."

Months later, 10News captured his first steps, which he was taking for his brothers.

"My ultimate goal is to be standing by the time my boys come home from Afghanistan," Fox said during an earlier interview.

Fox was standing for their return, but not all made it back. 

"It pulls on my heartstrings," he said. "A lot of our guys knew them and it hit them hard, so this is our way of giving back to them and all the guys who are coming back wounded and so if we can help some way, that's what we're all about."

Fox and his father started The Wounded Marine Fund to help people like Hotaling with anything that will help with that return to normal. 

"There's already a bond us being Marines but it's just amplified now," Fox said.

Marines are taught to have pride. Wounded Marines have to learn to let some of that go and let people they have served for or with lend a much-needed hand. 

"You want to try to do everything on your own, but sometimes it's just not plausible," Hotaling said.

Hotaling plans to fulfill his dream of going on the Pacific Coast Trail, which is a six-month hike from Mexico to Canada. Fox wants to make sure he can follow through with it. He hopes to raise $25,000 per person, starting with Hotaling.

The nonprofit has fundraisers scheduled for this spring. They also offer wristbands with any donation of $10 or more. 

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