This week KCBD would like to honor U.S. Marine Corporal Jeffrey Howell as our "Hometown Hero". Jeffrey is a 2006 Monterey High School graduate who just recently returned to Lubbock after his enlistment ended in September.
Unlike most kids, Jeffrey had always had a passion for a particular career - a career dedicated to protecting our country.
"Jeff decided to enlist when he was about 13 or 14 years old. He put a Marine Corp flag up in his room and read every Marine Corp book he could find," said Reg Howell, Jeff's father.
He didn't waste any time. Still a student at Monterey High School, Jeffrey signed up for the Marines in 2005 and went to boot camp just months after graduating in 2006.
"Of course, as parents we were worried to death about him the whole time," Reg said.
Like most military parents, they suffered through sleepless nights and days filled with fear. Reg and his wife had no idea they would see those fears unfold before their very eyes.
"We were skyping with Jeff one time during his first deployment to Iraq. We're sitting there and all of a sudden we hear a big boom in the background. Jeff jumps up and he's got his M4 attached to him, and he runs off right in the middle of the conversation," said Reg. "We didn't know until later that they were firing rockets into the base that they were at. No one was hurt, but it was a pretty scary moment."
As the war continued, those scary moments continued for Jeffrey's family. He was deployed again in 2009; this time to Afghanistan. Rather than fighting off rockets and snipers like in Iraq, in Afghanistan their worst enemies were those that lay hidden.
"I was a combat engineer, so I helped lead a sweep team to look for IEDs," Jeffrey said. "You always have to watch your step, that's why you have a team with you. I really wasn't worried too much about myself, I just wanted to get the convoy out of there, get my team out safely."
Jeffrey had been hit by IEDs before, but none like this.
"The front axle and front part of the engine was blown off from the back half of the vehicle. I was in the gun part of the convoy that got blown out, and that's about all I remember from it," Jeffrey said.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, losing hearing in his left hear, partial hearing in his right, and causing problems with his eyesight.
His enlistment was ending, and Jeffrey was awarded a Purple Heart, among many other medals for his brave service.
But even after being injured, Jeffrey felt his time was not done in the Marines. He reenlisted for a third tour in 2011 in Afghanistan.
"They had a lot of new guys, new marines with them, but I didn't want to see them go without me. I just decided to give it one more shot and stick with them to train some of the new guys," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey returned unharmed, and his enlistment ended in September of 2011. After several surgeries on his ears and eyes, his hearing and sight have improved. Jeffrey now has a job contracting with the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office, using his skills he learned as a Marine.
A true hero who sacrificed and fought for our country - a hero who has already inspired his little brother to join the Marines and be a hero just like him.
"Jeff is the most loving kid in the world," his father said. "He wanted to serve his country. He did so and he did it very honorably."