DAVID GREENE, Host:
Another unit knows all too well how deadly Afghanistan can be. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines recently returned to Camp Pendleton in California after an eight-month tour. The unit has suffered the highest casualties of the Afghan war to date, 25 Marines died and more than 150 were wounded, many with double and triple amputations.
As Gloria Hilliard reports, one of those welcoming the battalion home was the father of a Marine who wanted the world to hear the story of these warriors.
GLORIA HILLARD: Mark Soto, a high school football coach from Granite Bay, California, says it began with gratitude. That feeling of there but for the grace of God, he says. His son had escaped injury, returned whole from one of the bloodiest tours in Afghanistan. Other young men in his son's battalion had not been so lucky.
MARK SOTO: The average age is 20 years old. So, you know, these were kids two years ago that I was coaching. So I wanted to get this story out there and...
HILLARD: With a borrowed camera and his assistant coach serving as cinematographer, they spent time with some of the 3/5 Marines and their families. The result is a documentary called "The Day Remembered."
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE DAY REMEMBERED")
TOMMY PARKER: Yeah, I went up in the air and I realized, whoa, you know, this - my number got called, this really happened to me. And it's kind of overwhelming because...
HILLARD: That was 21-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Tommy Parker. On this day, he and his mother Lisa Jennison are sitting at their kitchen table. Seven months ago, Jennison left her two younger children with relatives in Montana to care for her son in San Diego.
LISA JENNISON: The worst phone call a mother or parent could ever get is that their son has stepped on an IED and has no legs, only has one hand.
HILLARD: Parker looks at his mother and runs his hand through his short cropped hair. This has not been easy for either of them.
PARKER: Losing your legs is kind of like becoming a little kid again. I have to learn how to walk. I have to learn how to go to the bathroom again. And then on top of all that, I was left-handed, and now not having my left hand, I now have to learn how to do everything right-handed.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right. Let's bend these fingers. Let's try it with isolate, and bend them out.
HILLARD: Another Marine profiled in the documentary is Sergeant Charlie Linville. As an explosives specialist in Afghanistan, it was his job to disarm IEDs.
WOMAN: This one still pretty sensitive?
CHARLIE LINVILLE: I think they're both right around the nerve.
HILLARD: Linville is being treated at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, where many of the battalions wounded are cared for. An IED explosion left him with two amputated fingers and a crushed foot. But the 25-year-old father of two insists he's one of the lucky ones.
LINVILLE: Knowing that, you know, I have both of my lower extremities, I consider myself lucky every day.
HILLARD: Although it's painful for him to walk, each day, Linville makes his rounds of the therapy rooms offering encouragement. Today, he spots another Marine from the 3/5, he's in a wheelchair, rail thin with no legs and one arm.
LINVILLE: You ever want like a home-cooked meal, call, my wife will definitely - either I'll bring it down to you or you come down. All right.
HILLARD: Linville knows the struggles ahead for these young men.
LINVILLE: Some of the injuries that these guys have, you know, at 19 years old, I don't think there are a lot of people in the - that would be willing to go through that journey, you know, or even make that sacrifice.
HILLARD: Mark Soto hopes this documentary will make people more aware of those sacrifices. And he'll donate the money generated by the DVD to assist the wounded warriors of the 3/5.
SOTO: There are lapses that need to be cared for and taken care of, bills that aren't paid, a car that may need to be bigger.
JENNISON: While that's cooking, I'm going to go fold the laundry.
HILLARD: Back at their home, Lisa Jennison and her son Lance Corporal Tommy Parker navigate the before and after of their lives. He has at least another 18 months of rehabilitation, including more surgeries.
PARKER: And I'm still alive and I'm still able to do stuff, live life. You know, I can play video games, go out with the guys. I mean, there's really nothing I can't do.
HILLARD: And as a mother, Jennison knows there will still be challenges along the way.
JENNISON: And I told him since day one if I could trade places with him, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'm just thankful he's still with me. I love him with all my heart.
HILLARD: For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hilliard.