Sometimes their pursuit of justice leaves them broken and bedridden, their future a question mark.
Wayne Eggins Jr. returned home this week from the hospital, more than a month after he was shot interrupting a burglary at Merrick Place apartments in west Augusta.
Doctors didn't expect him to live, much less go home this early -- but it doesn't surprise anyone who knows Eggins well.
"Wayne has always been independent," said his girlfriend, Monique Johnson-Sullivan, on Friday.
Shortly after midnight Feb. 18, Eggins, 24, returned home from work and spotted someone breaking into his neighbor's apartment. His own home had already been burglarized.
Eggins grabbed the man, punched him and dragged him back toward the front of the apartment. That's when a second man came around, pistol-whipped Eggins and shot him.
"Everything went blank from there," Eggins said.
Johnson-Sullivan, 20, was awakened by the sound of fighting. She hurried down the stairs to see what was going on, but a big bush blocked her view. Johnson-Sullivan went back upstairs and saw the muzzle flash five or six times. She rushed back downstairs and out the door.
Johnson-Sullivan memorized a description of the assailants' car as it left, then ran back inside for her phone. She couldn't find it, so she did the next-best thing: scream.
Neighbors brought outside by the gunfire rushed over to help. A nurse pulled off her shirt and held it under Eggins' head.
Eggins was lying on his stomach, his head held off the ground, mouth open. He was trying to talk, but could only gasp for air.
"There was so much blood," Johnson-Sullivan said. "I was just freaking out."
Someone drove her to the emergency room, where doctors made sure the stress wasn't leading to a miscarriage or early labor. Their baby is due Sept. 11.
From there, she went to the waiting room outside the intensive care unit. Doctors didn't expect Eggins to survive the night.
"Now isn't the time to lose him," Johnson-Sullivan said she thought. "He's all I got."
Both lived at the apartment complex last summer. They met at the pool.
"Hey Wayne," she said, guessing that was his name tattooed on the back of his arms.
She'd never been that forward with a guy before, but she handed him her number.
"Call me sometime," she said.
He did. They met for lunch in her apartment.
Soon after, she moved in with him. Eggins promised her mother he would take care of her. He worked long hours so she could study to become a pharmaceutical technician. Right after Christmas, they found out Johnson-Sullivan was pregnant.
Now Johnson-Sullivan has been thrust in the role of caregiver and provider. She does her best to stay positive, but it's hard sometimes, financially and emotionally.
"We were just like everyone else, living day by day," she said. "You don't prepare for something like this."
They moved into a single-story apartment so Eggins can get around his wheelchair, but she wants to find a house, some transportation. Eggins' uncle is coming from Philadelphia to help.
Eggins is mostly bedridden right now, his left side almost completely paralyzed. Surgery in a few months will replace the piece of plastic that's currently covering his brain.
They don't entertain thoughts about whether it's fair or not.
"Life isn't fair," Eggins said.
Would he do it again, knowing now there was a gun involved?
"I would shoot 'em and deal with the consequences later," Eggins said. "Maybe that sounds ignorant, but I don't have any lives left in me to do this again."