LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- After nearly dying from being shot in the face -- retired Marine Corporal James Gentile of Lee's Summit will celebrate this Veteran's Day with a stroll. He'll walk in the New York City Veteran's Day Parade.
He was selected to represent UCLA's Operation Mend program and wounded veterans everywhere. Gentile will travel the parade route alongside UCLA's Operation Mend, which provided him with medical services following injuries he sustained while fighting in Iraq.
"I was invited by UCLA's Operation Mend, whose done a lot of my surgeries from being wounded, I was shot in the face when I was in the Marines," said 32-year-old Gentile.
During a tour in Iraq in 2004, Gentile, who was 21 at the time, was severely injured when his team walked into an ambush.
"I could feel and hear the rounds popping around me, and I immediately felt and heard a big pop and realized I was hit," Gentile added as he held up the bullet taken out of his cheek by doctors.
"It severed my external carotid artery, which gives blood flow to my brain, which should kill you within a minute, two minutes, and by the grace of god I'm blessed to be here, every doctor said there`s no reason you should be alive, in my medical records it says recovery is unlikely," Gentile explained.
Thanks to the program that works with severely wounded veterans -- Jimmy is healing and has had 38 surgeries.
"I want to get back to normal life, and that`s what they`re helping me do," added Jimmy.
"It's stressful, it`s worrisome," said his wife Megan.
She and their four kids say it can be scary waiting through all those surgeries, and it's easy to understand why he was selected to walk in the parade.
"He truly understands how blessed he is, and he knows he came back for a reason," she said.
Jimmy says he's proud to represent an organization that`s him given so much -- everything from cosmetic surgery, to surgeries correcting his vision.
"It makes me proud, and just thankful and blessed that they chose me, there`s a lot of wounded veterans out there," he said.
He says sharing this experience with his family means the world to him.
"I want my kids to see the sacrifices that everyone has given for them," Jimmy said.
Jimmy, his wife, and four kids have never been to New York. They head there Monday and will all walk in parade on November 11th.
Statement from UCLA Operation Mend
"We're proud to have Corporal James Gentile join us in the Veteran's Day Parade in NYC. UCLA Operation Mend has a groundbreaking partnership with the United States military and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help heal the wounds of war."