Cottonmouths raising funds for Ranger wounded in Afghanistan

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerOctober 27, 2013 

Cpl. Josh Hargis salutes through pain and sedation as he is awarded the Purple Heart at a hospital in Afghanistan.

SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER-ENQUIRER

Cpl. Josh Hargis and his wife, Taylor, were typical of many young Army families. He was on a tour in Afghanistan and she remained behind in Columbus, working at a hair salon while both eagerly awaited the birth of their first child.

Three weeks ago, everything changed for the Hargis family.

Cpl. Hargis, 24, was grievously wounded while on a mission in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device was detonated. Hargis lost both of his legs in the explosion, which killed four and wounded 11 others.

But it was an act after the fight that brought Hargis international attention.

He received a Purple Heart, a combat decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded by the enemy.

Hargis' Purple Heart ceremony included what has become known as the Salute Seen Round the World. Hargis was sedated and in severe pain in an Afghanistan hospital following surgery to stabilize his wounds. There were more than 50 people in the room for the ceremony, a combination of military and medical personnel.

The Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to Hargis' blanket, then leaned down and whispered thanks to Hargis for his sacrifice. Military protocol dictates that the recipient salute after receiving the medal, but those present assumed Hargis was unconscious and unable to render a salute.

But Hargis' arm, full of wrappings and tubes, emerged from the blanket, determined to do his duty and salute. He did just that, even battling doctors who tried to get him to place his arm back under the blanket.

Hargis' commander wrote a letter to Taylor Hargis about the incredible courage and patriotism of her husband.

"I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speaks volumes about Josh's courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every newspaper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my 10 years in the Army."

Taylor Hargis, a native of Ft. Myers, Fla., and her husband, who is from Cincinnati, have been married for two years. Josh Hargis has been in the Army for three years, all spent at Fort Benning. He is a member of the 3rd Ranger Battalion.

Taylor Hargis works as a hair stylist at the Jean Evan Salon, where she met Columbus Cottonmouths owner Wanda Amos. When Amos heard of Josh Hargis' wounds, she offered to help.

The Cottonmouths are securing donations to support the Hargis family on the long road ahead. The team is hosting a Military Night on Saturday. Chuck-a-puck proceeds will benefit the family. Wanda and Shelby Amos have made a personal donation and the team will accept donations at Fan Relations. A special account has been set up and donations can be made to the Joshua Hargis Fund at any CB&T branch.

"I know Taylor personally, but I also have two nephews in the military," Amos said. "They put their lives on the line so we can enjoy our freedom. We take our freedom for granted. There's not enough we can do to support military families."

Taylor Hargis, 22, was eight weeks pregnant and home alone when she got the phone call about her husband.

"All I wanted to know was if he was alive," Taylor Hargis said. "He was stable at that time. I had a doctor's appointment coming up, so I went a couple of days early. Everything is fine with the baby."

Josh Hargis went from Afghanistan to a hospital in Germany and finally to San Antonio, Texas. It wasn't long before Taylor Hargis got to speak to her husband.

"It was a couple of days before he was able to call," Taylor Hargis said. "Hearing his voice was all I was waiting for."

Taylor Hargis has been with her husband in Texas. She returned to Columbus briefly over the weekend.

"I'm just here for the day," Taylor Hargis said. "I wanted to take some of the comforts of home to him. I'll be there until we decide what's next. Right now we're focusing on his recovery."

Taylor Hargis is very appreciative of the efforts Amos and the Cottonmouths are leading to help her family.

"I'm so grateful for what Miss Wanda and the team are doing," Taylor Hargis said. "It's amazing how many people have reached out and to hear how people care."

Taylor Hargis also wants to raise awareness for the sacrifice of military families.

"I'm so thankful people are hearing our story because this is still happening to families all the time. There are people being hurt and those that aren't coming home," Hargis said.

Josh Hargis faces a long road of rehabilitation and therapy. The family's next move is uncertain, but Taylor Hargis is sure of one thing.

"I am proud of my husband and every other service member," Hargis said. "It takes a certain amount of strength to be a military wife. My job is to support him and that's what I'm going to do."

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