Five years later, St. Pete Marine receives Purple Heart

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A Marine from St. Petersburg received a Purple Heart on Tuesday, nearly five years after suffered a severe head injury during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Devin Kimball, who retired a little more than a year ago as a sergeant, received the award in front of a small group of family, friends and fellow Marines.

"It's reality hitting hard. I really never thought this day would come. I never thought that I would have a  ceremony," said Kimball, 25, afterward.  "I thought that his was something that would be sent into the mail when I got older."

Kimball was a lance corporal in 2010 when a bomb went off next to him. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, along with the loss of some of his memory and cognitive skills.

One of his friends, Ivan Sears, lost both of his legs in the same blast. Sears was awarded a Purple Heart as he recovered in the hospital.

"It was always 'look out for my guys' and now I wear this for my guys," Kimball said.

The Marines in attendance said this award is one of the most revered and respected medals in the military because of how much sacrifice it takes to receive it.

"This is a symbol to all of us and to you about the sacrifice and what it means to be a Marine and what people  have to give up in this country. I'm proud of you for doing it," said a lieutenant colonel as he pinned the medal to Kimball's chest.

Kimball's wife, Samantha, couldn't hold back her tears as she watched.

"Very proud. He's my everything," she said, adding she and her husband have been together since they were 12  years old.

She'll never forget the gut-wrenching call she received after he was injured.

"That was probably  the hardest phone call I've ever had in my life. I'm just happy I didn't see two uniformed Marines come to my house, knock on the door."

Kimball, who, as a result of his injuries, no longer remembers his wedding or some of his childhood, is now a stay-at-home father. He dreams of going back into active duty but realizes that may be unlikely.

But he said he'll always have the Marines in his heart.

"A lot of people thank us for our service, but truthfully we're not done serving," he continued. "That's what I wanted to do, only thing I've ever wanted to be was a Marine and do it for the rest of my life."