JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. — With family, friends and members of the Army’s Military Police Corps in attendance, Lt. Gen. Donna Martin, Army inspector general, awarded Capt. Luis R. Avila the Order of the Marechausse, silver, during a ceremony at the Memorial Chapel on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Aug. 23.
The award is one of the highest honors given to a military police member by the Military Police Regimental Association, and it recognizes a degree of professionalism, high standards of integrity and morality and esprit de corps.
“I can’t think of a more deserving Soldier and member of our regiment to receive this honor,” Martin said. “Today, we are here because the impossible was made possible with faith, family, courage and prayers.”
On his fifth combat deployment in December 2011, Avila was leading his company from the 720th Military Police Battalion on a search and rescue mission in Afghanistan when a 600-pound improvised explosive device detonated underneath his vehicle, splitting it in half, Martin explained.
The explosion killed three of Avila’s Soldiers and left him severely wounded. He lost his left leg, suffered two heart attacks and two strokes, and a lack of oxygen caused brain damage. The injuries he sustained left him almost completely paralyzed.
Two weeks after the attack, he arrived back in the U.S. in a coma and on life support. His family would stay by his side morning and night, continuing to have faith that he would recover. They prayed and started playing some of his favorite music in the hospital room.
“During those dark days, the family remained steady in their faith in God, and in Luis’ will to survive,” Martin explained. “When their faith was tested, they turned to music.”
Miraculously, Luis’ facial muscles began to twitch, and he eventually woke up from the coma after 40 days. However, he couldn’t eat, speak or see for more than three years.
Luis and his family never gave up hope, and they continued to play music. He even used music therapy as part of his rehabilitation.
“I think what has been very important going through my husband's road of recovery has been his courage and discipline to do things,” his wife Claudia said. “Since the day that he was capable of listening and understanding, he has been working on how to get better.”
He has taken on the challenge of recovery with the help of the medical team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and the support system around him.
"It takes a strong family to endure hardship," Martin said. "I can attest that the Avila family is the strongest family I've ever had the honor to know."
With that support and through years of rehabilitation, Avila has regained some movement in his hands, leg and part of his speech. He now sings at many events throughout the National Capital Region.
He performed on television during the 28th National Memorial Day Concert at the U.S. Capitol in 2017 and during the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command ceremony in 2019. He also sang twice during his Order of the Marechausse award ceremony.
“It's an extreme honor to receive this award, and I am extremely grateful for my [military police] brothers and sisters that have supported me along the way,” he said. “We really appreciate all you do for us, your service and sacrifice to our nation.”
The Military Police Regimental Association established the Order of the Marechausse in 2000 to recognize exceptional dedication, competence and contribution to the regiment. The award is presented in either gold, silver, bronze, or steel, based on the impact and years of service to the regiment.
Today, there are nearly 500 recipients of the silver medal.
“Capt. Avila is truly a role model for all Soldiers, peers and subordinates alike,” Martin said. “I know I speak for all of us here today when I say that the Military Police Corps Regiment is blessed to have you, Luis, as a member of our family.”
Avila continues to recover from his injuries. He has completed four Army Ten-Miler races on a bike with his son, finishing in first place in his category one year, and has won multiple gold and silver medals at the DOD Warrior Games.