JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Navy sailor was left for dead outside a Southside apartment complex. Doctors said his chance of survival was slim to none.
But days before Independence Day, Brett Parks is sharing his story of survival with Action News.
"Oct. 17, 2012," said Parks with a surprising smile.
It's a date permanently etched into his mind as if it were carved into stone.
"It changed my life forever that day," he said.
It wasn't a bullet from a distant battlefield overseas that hit Parks. This Navy sailor was shot on home turf, in the parking lot of a southside apartment complex.
"I heard a scream back behind the fitness center," Parks recalled.
He rushed outside to find a robbery unfolding. The robber tried to run.
"I chased him down and I grabbed him and I had him in the parking lot. And he's like, 'Let go of me, let go of me,'" he said.
And then, two gunshots.
"And I fell like a load of bricks," Parks said.
As he laid on the pavement, Parks thought for sure he was taking his final breaths. Then he remembered his wife Susan. His young son. And his baby girl on the way.
"I made a goal to stay awake until I got to the hospital because I knew if I'd have fallen asleep I would have never woken up again," he said.
It's been eight months since that fateful day. 20 days in a coma. Countless hours of physical therapy. And the painful reality of learning to live life all over again without a third of his right leg. That was something he worried would cost him the most important thing in his world.
"When I found out my foot wasn't there anymore I turned to her and said, 'Susan do I have a foot?' She said, 'No you don't.' I said, 'Do you still love me?' She looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'Brett, I didn't marry you for your foot.'"
And as we approach the Fourth of July, this sailor is realizing what Independence Day really means.
"I don't have a tube coming out of my body or I'm not walking on crutches or in a wheelchair or I'm breathing on my own now. So it's such a liberating thing for me," he said.
As for the choice he made Oct. 17, 2012, "Doing the right thing is always worth it," he said.
Courtney Phillips, 22, is behind bars. Police say he's the man responsible for shooting Parks. He pleaded not guilty to charges of armed robbery and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.