A Marine from Mesa has died from burns he suffered during an accident in Pinal County while celebrating his birthday, yet his death may have saved the lives of others, his parents said.
Jos hua John Rhoades, 21, was a corporal who was sent to Kuwait with the 2nd Marine Division before Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Tim Shuter, his foster parent.
Before the war in Iraq started, Rhoades was sent back to the United States for a medical problem, and was scheduled to return to the Middle East.
Rhoades was celebrating his New Year’s 21st birthday with friends in the desert near Queen Valley, and somehow tripped and fell into a bonfire, Shuter said.
Friends, one a firefighter and the other a law enforcement officer, took him to Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa for serious burns.
He was later flown to the burn ward at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Shuter said.
Rhoades was an organ donor, and was kept on a respirator while hospital officials arranged to fly in organ recipients. On Jan. 14, Rhoades was taken off life support and died — but his donation allowed others to live, Shuter said.
"They said that he saved four lives," he said.
Shuter said Rhoades lived a troubled life as a youth. Rhoades was about 16, living in a foster home, when Shuter and his wife met, he said.
Describing him as a "cowboy," Becky Shuter, his foster mother, said Rhoades would always cheer her up on the occasional bad day.
"He could be tough and sometimes angry but he never stayed there long," she said in an e-mail. "He had courage and loved to ride bulls at the rodeo. He was a cowboy on the outside but inside he was like Buddha."
A graduate of Red Mountain High School, Rhoades became interested in military service and participated in the ROTC program while at school.
"It’s a tragedy in many ways, but in some ways Josh did everything he set out to do," Tim Shuter said.