Panama City Beach- Hugh MCKinney began his career in the military with the United States Marine Corps in 1981.
"I graduated from Paris Island and went to Okinawa, Japan for 15 months," said MCKinney.
Years later he joined the Idaho National Guard where he eventually received the orders that would change his life forever. He was deployed to Iraq.
"Broken windows, buildings, dirt everywhere. Not much for food, kids walking through the streets. This would make a third world country look good," said MCKinney.
He said it was his reliance on his comrades and a firm grasp of the bigger picture that kept him going.
"Our job was to help them from Saddam's totalitarian control," said MCKinney.
During his year long tour, MCKinney found himself knocking on death's door on many occasions.
"There was an RPG incident, then there were rockets that went over a wall that landed about 50 meters from where I was," said MCKinney.
But it was his last encounter with an improvised explosive device that changed his life. It blew up 20 feet away from him.
"You go through that incredible amount of concussion and pressure. For a moment you're trying to tell if you're alive," said MCKinney.
MCKinney suffered a traumatic brain injury or TBI, which doctors said led to a stroke a year later.
"I knew something was really wrong," said MCKinney.
To this day he said he still sometimes struggles just being a husband and father.
"I love my wife and kids, and I've just been trying to do a better job doing what I used to be able to take care of them," said MCKinney.
But like a true hero, MCKinney said even if he knew what he knows now he still would have chosen to serve his country and protect our freedom.
"We don't want to lose our lives, but if we don't do that our country will not be able to stay the great country that we have been. We have to do this," said MCKinney.