MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Cpl. Joshua M. McKee was standing guard at the entry point of Forward Operating Base Hanson, an outpost in Afghanistan, in 2012, when a man dressed as Afghan police rode up on a motorcycle.
McKee and a fellow Marine approached him, and he started shooting at them.
Even while taking heavy fire and being wounded, the Lake Placid High School graduate took cover and was able to call for help.
McKee "engaged the enemy," forcing him to detonate two hidden grenades, neutralizing the threat.
The 23-year-old, who is a rifleman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, received the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device during an award ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Dec. 27
"Receiving the Bronze Star is more than an honor," McKee said in a media release. "But when it's all said and done, I was just doing my job."
The Bronze Star is awarded for heroism, merit or meritorious service in a combat zone. When given for heroism, it is awarded with a combat distinguishing device. It is the fourth highest combat decoration and the 10th highest U.S. military award.
"The day I was injured, I was on post at the entry-control point as sergeant of the guard," McKee explained. "A man dressed as an Afghan police rode up on a motorcycle, and when we started to walk toward him, he just started shooting at us."
"We interacted with the local police all the time, but when rounds started to fly by me, that's when I noticed the Afghans had circled around us," McKee said. "Even though I was shot in my upper thigh, I managed to call for help and we took them down."
First Lt. Jonathon Harris pinned the medal on McKee.
During the deployment, Harris was McKee's platoon commander and was present at the base during the attack.
"The fact that McKee was bleeding everywhere, but remained vigilant the entire time ensuring that no other threats existed, was an act of a true hero," Harris said in the media release. "McKee's actions that day hands down prevented the loss of several Marines' and coalition forces' lives; he's a hero and someone I look up to 100 percent."
Today, nearly a year after the deployment, McKee is still dealing with some nerve damage but says despite it all, he wouldn't have changed his actions that day, the media release added.
"At the time, you don't really think about the exact situation you're in," McKee explained. "It's one of those outer body moments, and the things closest to you definitely come to mind, but other than that you don't even think, you just act."
His father, Marty McKee, who is a drill instructor with the Highlands County School District, was present at the ceremony, and choked up Wednesday when he recalled how the wife of the fellow Marine whose life his son saved thanked him.
There were about 1,000 people gathered at the ceremony, Marty McKee said, including his battalion, which was scheduled to leave for deployment the following day.
"He was a tough kid," Marty McKee said of his only son, who now walks with a limp and joined the military to follow his father's footsteps.
Joshua McKee is scheduled to be discharged in February.
Marty McKee knows of Marines who lost their lives.
He is proud of his son's heroism and just thankful he is back home.
"We got him back, that's the main thing," he said.