Cory Hixson, 21, of Craig, who is serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, lost his left eye during a five-hour battle in Fallujah, Iraq, this weekend.
According to his father, Jim Hixson of Craig, Hixson's unit had been checking on enemy pickups they had attacked and were returning to their vehicles when a mortar round exploded on the ground near Hixson.
Jim Hixson, who also served as a Marine, said that a mortar round is fired out of a tube and explodes when it hits the ground. A piece of shrapnel caught Hixson in the eye.
He was transported to a hospital in Baghdad before being taken to Germany, where he is undergoing treatment. Doctors there attempted to save the eye in surgery but were unsuccessful.
"He's supposed to be leaving Germany soon and coming back stateside," Jim said. "I'm hoping we'll get to see him at the end of this week or the beginning of next week."
Hixson soon will travel to Balboa Hospital in California for further treatment, including possible reconstructive surgeries.
A lance corporal, Hixson is a squad automatic weapon gunner, known as a "grunt," with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines I Company. His brother Greg, who also is a Marine deployed to Fallujah, still serves there.
"They got to see each other and they got to hug each other," Jim said. "Cory's pretty down on it, pretty depressed, but he'll be all right."
Jim said he's shaken up by his son's injury but is thankful the incident wasn't worse. Hixson's mother, Linda Nichols, agreed.
"I've been in shock the last three days," she said. "I've had trouble sleeping.
"I guess that's what kept me going, is knowing he's alive. It could have been a lot worse. He could have lost a leg, or his life."
Linda said Cory was worried about what was going to happen to his gear, which is still in Iraq, and to his job in the Marine Corps.
Jim and Linda don't know what to expect.
Right now they are looking forward to seeing Cory and still worrying about Greg as he continues to serve overseas.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or at email@example.com.