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Former Muskogee Athlete Survives Afghanistan Firefight

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John Coker is recovering from combat injuries he sustained in the same firefight that killed three other Oklahoma soldiers. John Coker is recovering from combat injuries he sustained in the same firefight that killed three other Oklahoma soldiers.
Stacy and John Coker Sr. said they are praying for the families of the soldiers killed in combat. Stacy and John Coker Sr. said they are praying for the families of the soldiers killed in combat.
Coker bats for the Ragin Cajuns. Photo courtesy University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Coker bats for the Ragin Cajuns. Photo courtesy University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Coker's younger brothers say he is their hero. Coker's younger brothers say he is their hero.

Dan Bewley, News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -- One of the other soldiers wounded during the same firefight that killed three Oklahomans will soon be on his way back home to the United States.

Sergeant John Coker, Jr. was shot in the legs and is headed for San Antonio to begin rehabilitation.

In the fall of 2000, John Coker Jr. could be seen scoring a long touchdown for the Muskogee Roughers. Ten years later, Coker is a citizen soldier and member of the 45th Infantry. 

"Outstanding young man, just an unbelievable man," said Stacy Coker, John's mother. "He's a wonderful person."

"Smart in school," said his father, John Coker Sr.

Stacy and John Coker, Sr. are proud but very worried parents. Their son was injured during a gun battle on Friday in Afghanistan.

He was shot in the leg and survived, but three members of his unit were killed.

"His injuries are severe - and the nick to the femoral artery could have been fatal - but fortunately, it wasn't God's will," Stacy said.

Coker was a star football and baseball player for Muskogee before graduating in 2001. He played Division 1 college baseball in Louisiana.

His brothers are some of his biggest supporters. Brad Coker even wears his championship ring.

9/12/2011 Related Story: Seminole High School Teachers Remember Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

"I've been looking up to him ever since I can remember," Brad said. "I just pray for him every day, and I just hope he is all right."

The family is still coming to grips with what Coker endured in Afghanistan. They're thankful he survived and pray every day for the families of those who didn't.

"We are very fortunate to have our son, so we are - I just can't imagine what the families of those who have lost their's - I just can't imagine what they are going through," said John's mother Stacy. "It's just awful."

Stacy and John, Sr. are grateful they'll have more time with their son, and they can't wait for that first hug when their son gets back in the U.S.

"If he walks with a limp it doesn't matter; he is going to be our son forever," Stacy said.

John Coker, Jr. is being transported to San Antonio Monday evening. His parents do not know how long he'll be there or when he'll get to come back home to Muskogee.

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