Nightly News   |  January 09, 2014

Life After Soldier’s Famed Salute

The image of a bandaged solider giving a salute from his hospital bed went viral. Learn where he is now. NBC News’ Harry Smith reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the u.s. army rangers like to say, rangers lead the way. and they do, from their famous exploits on d-day, think private ryan, from their service to our two most recent wars. we have an update on an afghanistan veteran who we came to know because of a famous photo. it showed him saluting despite being under heavy sedation when he was in his hospital room. his name is josh hargis, and the photo went around the world. tonight, nbc 's harry smith speaks for the first time with sergeant josh hargis.

>> reporter: josh hargis is one tough son of a gun , that he is up and about is proof of his grit. but then we knew that. that is josh. he had just been awarded a purple heart in a field hospital . no one dreamed he was conscious.

>> i felt stuck a little bit, so i started tugging on it and pulled it all the way up. and the salute, i did it as best i could.

>> reporter: the picture went viral as soon as josh's wife, taylor , posted it on facebook, then taylor talked to us and the response kept growing.

>> i have a brown paper bag at home filled to the top with letters.

>> reporter: josh and taylor wish are they could respond to every message and they want folks to know josh is doing well, taylor is too, she is due in may. how are you feeling?

>> i feel good, tired. hungry.

>> she is always hungry.

>> reporter: already, there have been milestones, like when josh stood up for the first time.

>> like the first big moment of like -- okay, we're on the road. we're healing.

>> reporter: did it feel like that for you, too?

>> being here, to hold my wife.

>> reporter: to hold your wife again, imagine. josh's left leg has healed enough to be fit for a prosthesis, and learning to walk is a tricky business , requiring serious core strength and being able to balance in a way you have to see to believe. all of this requires fearlessness.

>> i don't want the help.

>> reporter: you don't want it.

>> i don't.

>> reporter: that kind of courage is a little easier to come by when you have a solid support system. next month, josh's brother is heading up to raise money for what will be a lifetime of added costs.

>> i want them to know that no matter what happens throughout their life that they will always have us to back them.

>> reporter: josh and taylor are humbled by the attention they receive. but they want people to know the war is not over.

>> we're still asking this of our soldiers, go over there, maybe you will come back, maybe you won't. but go over there.

>> reporter: indeed, it is we, who should be saluting all of them. harry smith , nbc news, san antonio .

>> and that is our broadcast for this thursday night from our nbc news washington bureau.