TODAY | June 28, 2013
>> transplant in history. it happened in baltimore 15 months ago and for the first time the families and doctor involved are sharing their remarkable story with nbc's ann curry .
>> reporter: this is a story of two young men, one richard norris hid from the world for 15 years after a disfiguring shotgun accident. the other, joshua was just emerging into the world, signing up to be a marine wanting to serve.
>> he just had a very loving spirit about him.
>> but randy and gwen say he was just walking across a main road when he was hit by a van.
>> do you have the location of the emergency?
>> joshua was air lifted to the shock trauma center , the same hospital where richard was a patient.
>> the one thing i prayed is please don't let him die.
>> reporter: the doctors told them joshua 's brain injury was too see revere. after they considered with drawing life support , they got a request to donate joshua 's organs. they said yes. then they were asked to donate his face to richard .
>> we felt like this was something he would want to do. out of this tragedy something good could happen.
>> it is one thing to donate your child's organs, but it is an entirely different thing to donate your child's face.
>> it was difficult decision. i know i did tell randy at the time, if i ever saw someone walking around that had joshua 's face, the first thing i would do is give him a big hug.
>> but you didn't know the surgery was going to work.
>> well, it was richard 's only hope.
>> the department of defense funded the experimental face transplant surgery to gain research into helping u.s. troops wounded on the battlefield. richard 's doctor, eduardo rodriguez .
>> what made him perfect for trying to create the kind of science needed.
>> that was the same type of injury our soldiers were experiences in iraq. the result of the ied blast coming from the ground up.
>> the 36 hour surgery, the most extensive face transplant in history would give richard a new life and yield findings that would advance transplant medicine. it also gave a mother who lost a son, a chance to see his face again when she met richard .
>> and did you reach out and hug him?
>> yes, when he came in, yes i did.
>> were you hugging your son.
>> yes, i feel like that part of him was there saying that he was okay.
>> and you can see more on this story tonight on ann curry reports, a face in the crowd. that's at 10:00 , 9:00 central time right here on nbc. incredible story.