Lance Cpl. Alex Juedes was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in a small town in southern Afghanistan on Jan. 25.
His first tour ended abruptly with a flight to Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Md., and a Purple Heart. He lost most of his right hand, with just his index and pinky fingers remaining. His arm was also broken and shrapnel tore through the femoral artery in his leg.
Hillgrove High School will honor Juedes at a military appreciation event during a baseball game at 5:30 p.m. March 24. The school, at 4165 Luther Ward Road in Powder Springs, will also raise money for Juedes’ recovery.
Juedes’ family credits his fellow Marine, Jacob Schlauder, for saving his life by applying a tourniquet to his leg.
Karen Dunlap, Juedes’ mother, said he remains in Bethesda but is recovering nicely and is no longer in the hospital. He is living in an apartment with his father, Greg Juedes, provided by the Marine Corps on the campus of the hospital so he can attend physical and occupational therapy.
“He’s healing and he looks good,” Dunlap said. “All of his skin grafts have taken well.”
Juedes is expected to receive a prosthesis as he continues recovering and will undergo two more surgeries to repair his hearing, Dunlap said. Each is expected to take three hours followed by a three-week recovery.
“They said this will repair his hearing, but that’s a time-consuming surgery,” Dunlap said. “They can only do one ear at a time.”
Juedes spent his 21st birthday in a hospital room recovering from his injuries, but Dunlap said she continues to be amazed by his optimistic attitude.
“He’s very positive,” Dunlap said. “He wants it all to happen now, like we all do. We all want it to happen instantaneously. He’s just got to be patient. Everything takes time.”
The family has been overwhelmed with encouragement from the community, Dunlap said, including the support from Hillgrove, where Juedes played soccer beginning as a sophomore and continuing through his graduation in 2012.
“We really love the Hillgrove family,” Dunlap said. “I was amazed that they wanted to do this for us. I think it’s great.”
The Hillgrove Dugout Club, a booster club, will sell T-shirts at the March 24 military appreciation game with proceeds benefiting Juedes’s recovery. Shirts will cost $15 with XXL shirts costing $18. Juedes will also be honored during a pre-game ceremony.
It’s the second year the school has had a military appreciation game, said Jon Nix, president of the Dugout Club.
Nix said it’s a way to show the school’s appreciation for an alumnus’ service and let the high school baseball players know they can have an impact on the community.
“It’s more than just a game of baseball,” Nix said.
Kimberly Sheats, a family friend from Marietta, has also created a website for donations.
Though the Marine Corps is footing the bill for three family members to travel to and from Maryland, Sheats told the MDJ that financial hardships will likely follow his release.
Donations can be made at giveforward.com/alex-juedes-rehab-fund. The page has raised $4,910 so far.
A Facebook page has also been created where family members post updates about the young Marine’s recovery. The page can be viewed at facebook.com/LCplGregAlexJuedes.
Want to go?
What: Military appreciation game honoring Hillgrove alum and Marine, Alex Juedes
When: March 24 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: 4165 Luther Ward Road in Powder Springs
Cost: T-shirts $15, XXL T-shirts $18; donations accepted at giveforward.com/alexjuedes-rehad-fund
More: Visit facebook.com/LCplGregAlexJuedes for updates on his recovery