Welcoming Home a Hero
On Tuesday, September 15, 2009, Marine Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) Jesse Cottle arrived in Terminal 4 of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from Denver. Friends and family waited in anticipation to welcome the 24 year-old who has returned home to Phoenix for a brief stay after serving three tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. Upon his arrival, dozens of people with red, white, and blue balloons and banners cheered and clapped loudly. SSgt. Cottle took time to shake hands with those welcoming him, including those who did not personally know him, but came out to show their support. Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson also spoke and thanked SSgt. Cottle for his service. Other attendees included uniformed Marines, volunteers from the Military & Veteran’s Hospitality Room, and members of the Phoenix Police Airport Bureau.
During his time overseas, SSgt. Cottle was a member of a highly qualified and select team of individuals in charge of EOD or Explosive Ordnance Disposal. The team was involved in disarming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). SSgt. Cottle’s teammates included two other Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Brown and Staff Sergeant Pat Hilty, and Naval Corpsman Woody “Doc” Ender.
On July 19, when the team was on patrol, SSgt. Cottle was struck by a non-metal IED. He sustained bi-lateral amputations due to the severity of the blast and his tour of duty ended just a few weeks shy of its completion. None of SSgt. Cottle’s teammates were injured in the blast. SSgt. Cottle was flown to several locations in Afghanistan, then to Germany and finally to Bethesda, MD., where he underwent six surgeries. In August, SSgt. Cottle journeyed to San Diego to begin a year-long recovery at the Naval Medical Center. He will return again to San Diego on September 21 to further his recovery that will include physical therapy and classes.
SSgt. Cottle’s mother Peg Cottle said that he is optimistic about what the future brings. “He made a decision right away that this was not going to get him down and that it’s not going to change who he is,” she said.
Friends and family are also planning a Welcome Home reception for him to be held on Saturday to mark the two month anniversary of his journey to recovery.