Home Town Hero: A Durant High School Graduate Returns From Afghanistan
By Alissa Bridges
If you call Lieutenant Corporal Ron Holton Jr. a hero to his face, he’ll give a little scoff and look at you like you’re crazy. “I was only doing my job” is his standard answer to comments like that. His job, though, is what makes him exactly what he claims he’s not: a hero.After graduating from Durant High School in 2007, Holton immediately enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. “I wanted a challenge,” he said, “and the Marine Corps is the hardest branch out there.” Three months after graduating from high school, Holton graduated from basic training and joined 1 Battalion 2 Marines. His first overseas tour was in Iraq from July of 2008 to February of 2009.He deployed again in February of 2010 but, this time, to Afghanistan. April 20, 2010 started off as normal as any other day, as Holton and the unit left their base at around noon to patrol the surrounding area. Within the hour things changed. Some Afghanistan snipers made contact to the north of the unit. “We usually encountered popped shots every day. They get frisky a lot and want to see how we react,” said Holton. But this encounter quickly escalated into something much more serious than just a series of random shots.Soon after hearing the sniper shots from the north, the unit also noticed shots coming from the west. “It was really confusing,” said Holton. “People were trying to figure out where we were getting shot from. That’s when the snipers from the north started taking accurate fire. Some of the troops ran towards those snipers and had them pinned down.”He said, “I saw a kind of glare, like one from a mirror. I told my buddy about it and pointed it out. We assumed it was a sniper and started shooting.He continued, “That was when I felt it. I thought I got bit by something, but then it started to burn. I asked my friend ‘Am I shot?’ He came over, looked at me and freaked out. That was when I knew I’d been shot. I looked down at my leg and saw it was covered in blood. While he was trying to move me out of the line of fire, I got hit again in the other leg. My squad leader ran over to me. I’ll never forget what he said when he saw me; he said, ‘I swear to God, if you start crying, I’m going to make fun of you for the rest of your life.’ I started laughing and told him ‘okay.’”Holton was not the only one injured that day. Fellow Marine Justin Platt was also shot in the leg and Jacob “Doc” Emmott was shot in the head while tending to Holton and Platt’s wounds.“Doc saved my life. He’s the reason I’m still here,” said Holton. Thankfully all three soldiers survived. In May, Holton returned home to Valrico to rest and recuperate from his injuries, but he’s made sure to spend plenty of time with family and friends. “The whole thing made me realize what, and who, is important,” he said. Heather Ewing, a longtime friend of Holton’s, is one of the many people who anxiously waited for Holton to return home. “When I first heard that Ron got hurt, I was in shock. You never think that it’ll be someone you know. He’s brave to go over there and risk his life so all of us can be safe back home,” she commented.Holton returns to Camp Lejeune in June for about a month to finish up some work in order to receive an honorary discharge. He will also receive a Purple Heart for his service to our country. He will be the only surviving AFJROTC graduate from Durant High School to receive one. “I know how blessed I am to still be alive,” he said. “The list of people I know that are no longer with us is too long. I still think about my boys in Afghanistan all the time and what they’re going through.”After discharge, Holton plans to go to college.Holton’s story serves as an excellent reminder that the men and women serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan face danger every day, even though we may not hear about all of the events happening overseas in the news. All of the soldiers, whether currently fighting, injured or lost, are someone’s mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend. They all deserve to be remembered and have our support year round. They are all heroes.

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