Sgt. Joseph Lollino receives the Distinguished Service Cross from Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, as family and friends observe at the MEDCOM/AUSA Army Medical Symposium in San Antonio, Texas.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (May 18, 2010) -- An Army medic's heroism during a firefight in Afghanistan led to his recognition with the U.S. military's second-highest decoration for valor.

Sgt. Joseph L. Lollino received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart from Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the Army, May 17, during the Army Medical Symposium cosponsored by U.S. Army Medical Command and the Association of the United States Army in San Antonio, Texas.

Lollino, a native of Hoffman Estates, Ill., retrieved and treated five casualties when his convoy was ambushed June 20, 2008, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan. He was serving with Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

"One vehicle was very badly disabled. The RPG blew up a fuel can in back starting a massive fire," Lollino said.

"There were two mountainsides on both sides of the road, with a small dip on the left side of the road, so that makes it very difficult to maneuver around. It was very rocky with some trees," he said.

Lollino drove his armored Humvee through enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire to reach the disabled vehicle, returned fire with his weapon, extracted the casualties from the vehicle and began treatment.

"As the (casualty collection point) started taking fire, I returned fire," he said. "I used a couple of magazines until the truck got behind us, then the .50-cal (machine gun) and the Mark 19 (grenade launcher) took over."

"They shot RPGs at us, and I got down to cover one of the wounded who had very bad shrapnel wounds. I got wounded myself," he added.

Despite shrapnel in his upper arm, Lollino treated four Soldiers with shrapnel wounds to the neck, legs, arms and shoulder, plus a case of smoke inhalation. He loaded them into another vehicle and continued treatment as they escaped the four-kilometer-long ambush.

"We got them out. I just wanted to make sure the guys were safe; they were good friends of mine," he said. "I had a goal, I didn't want anybody in my unit to die. We came back with casualties, but nobody died."

"They're all doing good now, I get to talk to them every once in a while," Lollino said of the casualties. "One, Sgt. Matlock, got the Silver Star and he's actually reported again to Afghanistan."

Lollino now is assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii as a licensed practical nurse, working with patients recovering from anesthesia.

His wife, parents, siblings and several former comrades in the airborne unit attended the awards ceremony.

"He's a great guy, he always has your back. I have never had a more dependable friend," said Sgt. Cayleb Lee, who now has left active duty after serving with Lollino from basic training through assignment in Italy.

"I just wanted to do my job, fix the guys and make sure no one died," Lollino said. "Everybody's got a family we all want to get back to."

Page last updated Mon May 17th, 2010 at 21:01