PHOENIX - Marine Staff Sergeant Jesse Cottle is not afraid of combat. In fact, the 25-year-old United States Marine isn't afraid of much of anything.
He thrives on extreme sports, like skydiving and skiing black diamond runs. So, it's not surprising he detonates bombs for a living.
Cottle is part of an elite platoon which hunts and disposes explosive devices in the Middle East. He has already served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
"Sometimes it was a rush, sometimes it was scary, sometimes it was really boring," said Cottle.
There was nothing boring about his mission on July 19, 2009.
"In my line of work it only took a few seconds to realize what had happened," Cottle recalled.
Cottle's platoon was sweeping for improvised explosive devices (IED) in the volatile Nowzad Province in Afghanistan, when he stepped on an undetected bomb. The blast was so powerful Cottle lost both his legs.
"It is hard not to be angry, it is hard not to be depressed," Cottle said painfully.
Everyday is a struggle for Cottle, who has now undergone six surgeries and grueling therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. His rehabilitation includes doing things he loves like swimming and kayaking.
Cottle's mother, Peg, has been by her son's side every step of the way.
"There's a hard reality, things are definitely different now," said Peg Cottle.
Peg was a nurse for 20 years, but said nothing could have prepared her for the first time she saw her son as a bilateral amputee.
"He wasn't mad at me for crying," Peg explained. "But I think that he definitely prefers if we don't."
There's been an outpouring of support for Jesse's service and sacrifice. Donations have been rolling in, including a new Harley Davidson and pickup truck equipped with hand controls. He also received a piano. Jesse is an accomplished pianist and is thankful he's still able to make music.
"I was just praising God that his brain is good and his hands are good," said Peg.
SSgt Jesse Cottle refuses to let his disability be a burden. He's already walking without a cane, driving and has competed in the Wounded Warrior Olympics.
"Like any amputee you would do anything to get your leg or your legs back," Jesse said. "But I would never take back my decision to become a Marine or my decision to become an EOD tech."
SSgt Jesse Cottle plans to attend the University of San Diego in the fall on a full scholarship. He plans on pursuing studies in the medical field which makes his mother abundantly proud.
"Jesse is a very, very shining example of a Marine that is our better nature," said Peg.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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