In early March, the Elkins family received an early morning call from Afghanistan where their 23-year old son James, was serving in his first deployment. James Elkins, a platoon leader with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Wainwright, deployed in January. The third generation Alaskan had wanted to serve in the military since high school.
“You get a phone call at 1 a.m. you pretty much expect nothing good,” said Brent Elkins, James’ father. “When I picked up the phone it was James’ voice. He had said he had been injured, and he’s okay.”
Second Lieutenant James Elkins and his platoon were doing a routine clearing operation in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan when snipers opened fire.
“After he’d been hit, ranger-mode took over. He called his own medivac and walked right to it and got in,” said his younger sister Johnna.
The 23-year-old soldier pushed his men to safety, but not before he was hit in the back of his head and knocked down. The bullet went through by his neck and shattered his jaw. Doctors had to insert 8 screws and 2 titanium plates. But miraculously, the bullet barely missed vital areas.
“It was like a half inch from the spinal cord and a quarter inch from the jugular,” said his mother Jessie. “Any closer, it would have been lights out.”
That bullet came out of his right cheek, leaving behind a dot, which was the bullet’s exit wound.
“We were mainly surprised how he looked. We were blessed,” said his mother. “When you hear of a gunshot wound to the neck exiting his face, I was relieved when I saw him,” his father added.
It was a relief also to his wife and his baby boy, who are currently with Elkins at a San Antonio military hospital.
“He didn’t believe anything but God up there that was helping him,” said his sister.