When Staff Sgt. Jerod Murphy was in Iraq, he often joked about war wounds.
"I thought I was the last person in the world that was going to get shot," he said.
Nearly nine months later, Murphy has an eight inch scar on his left elbow that proves otherwise. He remembers what it was like when snipers fired shots toward his vehicle.
"It was really like a sledgehammer hitting me in the funny bone, in the back of the elbow," he said.
There was nothing funny about Sgt. Murphy's predicament. The Marine was running security near An Nasariyah in the southern part of Iraq. The date was March 26. America's war against Iraq was barely a week old.
"Initially it wasn't very scary," he said of the sniper shot. "But once I let my arm down and all the blood went everywhere, then you know, you start going how serious is it, am I going to lose my arm."
Three surgeries saved Murphy's arm. The most recent was just a few weeks ago. The scar, and a Purple Heart ribbon on his uniform became daily reminders of his experience in the war.
Murphy came home in April, and instantly became a war hero.
Two weeks before Christmas, the Orange Grove Lyman Chamber saluted Sgt. Murphy and the three Gulfport Seabee battalions that supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. Everybody in uniform knew how fortunate they were to be home for the holidays.
NMCB 74 member Michael Vanderweide said that for the first time in two years, his unit would be home for Christmas.
"A chance to be with family," he smiled. "That's what a lot of us miss."
It's the bullet that didn't miss Sgt. Murphy that changed his outlook on Christmas, and on life.
"This time of the year, after this has happened, it's enlightening. It really is," he said. "You look at things with a different perspective."
For Murphy, that means no longer putting off something you can do today, especially when it involves his family.
"We had a lot ot be thankful for this year," he said. "I have four kids and a beautiful wife. And I was able to come back to all of them."