While Glencoe native Josh Wetzel recovers in a hospital nearly 700 miles away from his hometown, members of his community are supporting their local hero from afar through a couple of fundraisers set for Thursday, June 14.
Two weeks ago today, U.S. Army SPC Josh Wetzel, a 26-year-old Glencoe native, was injured in a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan. His injuries required both of his legs to be amputated, one at the knee and the other just below the knee. The explosion also fractured Josh's neck and several of his fingers.
Josh is currently recovering at Walter Reid Hospital in Washington, D.C. with his wife Paige, mom, dad and other family members by his side. Josh is also the nephew of Fox 6 reporter Dixon Hayes, who will be reporting on his nephew's story and the community's support tonight at 5 p.m.
Hayes describes Josh as a classic, all-American family guy who stayed in touch with family members "constantly" while serving in the military overseas. Hayes says his nephew always asked his family to pray for the other people in his unit, calling them a "great bunch of guys."
And despite losing both legs, Wetzel seems to have lost none of his fighting spirit. Days after the explosion, his mom Cathi posted a photo of him raising a bandaged arm in triumph on the plane with a quote from Josh: "You can't keep me down."
"Hey everyone. It's Josh! I just want to start out by thanking everyone for your thoughts and prayers! I know I have been called a warrior and a hero, but I think you all are warriors and heroes because without you guys I wouldn't be here today!"
Josh's wife said in a post on the Facebook page that she married him because he was the kind of person who always sees the glass half full. In his message of thanks, Josh mentioned the positive impact of losing his legs and feeling the support of thousands of people:
"I want all of you to look at my situation and see how powerful our God is! How else would I have been able to reach this many people if I had kept my legs? Just remember God is good ALL THE TIME! I'm healing strong because of your prayers so please keep it up!"
In addition to offering encouragement and prayers, Glencoe community members are organizing two fundraisers to help cover the family's expenses that have incurred during Josh's hospitalization.
The Glencoe Dixie Youth Baseball League will host a tournament Thursday, June 14 and give the first $500 raised at the gate to the "Josh Wetzel Fund."
The "Josh Wetzel Fund" has been set up at the Glencoe branch of Regions Bank to help to help Josh's wife, mother and father with traveling and other out-of-pocket expenses. According to the website prayersforjoshwetzel.com, a place where people can donate online via PayPal, once the family's needs have been met, they'll give any excess money to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured soldiers and their families.
To send money to the fund by mail, the address is: Josh Wetzel Fund, Regions Bank, 510 West Main Street, Glencoe, AL 35905. People can give to the Josh Wetzel Fund at any Regions bank by saying it's set up at the Glencoe branch.
Another fundraiser being held Thursday night is at 3 Styles Pizza, at the Briarmeade Shopping Center in Glencoe. They will donate $5 for every XL specialty pizza sold between 4 and 7 p.m. not just at their Glencoe location, but also the locations in Alexandria and Leesburg. The Glencoe location will also be the scene of a block party complete with a live band. Other merchants in that shopping center plan to take part.
Anyone who would like to mail a card of encouragement to Josh can send it to this address, posted on the Pray for Josh Wetzel Facebook page:
SPC Joshua Wetzel
8901 Wisconsin Ave.
4th Floor, Room 442
Bethesda, MD 20889
More info on Josh Wetzel's background, per Dixon Hayes: Josh is a 2004 graduate of Glencoe High School, later attended Gadsden State Community College and Young-Harris College in Georgia, both on baseball scholarships. Josh has been married to Paige Beasley Wetzel formerly of Fort Payne, since December 2010. He's been in the Army almost two years.
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