Soldiers happy to be alive receive Purple Hearts
November 10, 2010
<b>JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq</b> - While en route to the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Support Operations (SPO) center April 29, Sgt. 1st Class Tony O'Neil, SPO noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the equipment readiness division with the 13th CSSB, and a Columbus, Miss., native, heard the alarm for incoming indirect fire.
While attempting to take cover in a concrete bunker, Sgt. 1st Class O'Neil was struck against the bunker walls by the force of an impacted mortar.
Almost two months after that incident, while providing fuel and armament to incoming helicopters at the Forward Armament and Refueling Point at Forward Operating Base Cobra, July 28, Spc. Crystal Hodges, an aviation fueler with the 512th Quartermaster Company, 13th CSSB, 3rd Sust. Bde., 103rd ESC, and a Grand Rapids, Mich., native; Sgt. Willie Bell, an aviation fueler for the 512th QM Co., and a Swainsboro, Ga., native; and Spc. Bobby McKisset, refueler for the 512th Quartermaster Company, and a Washington, D.C., native, received shrapnel wounds from two explosive projectiles.
All four Soldiers were honored Oct. 28 with Purple Hearts, the military's oldest award, and three of them were awarded the Combat Action Badge, given to military members engaged by combat activity.
"I'm extremely honored by this award," said Spc. McKisset. "But I am mainly happy to just be alive."
The three other Soldiers echoed McKisset's statement by expressing their deep gratitude for the award and their second chance on life.
"I feel extremely blessed just for the fact that I am still here," said Sgt. 1st Class O'Neil. "This award could have very easily been presented to my Family at a memorial ceremony."
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war at the hands of the enemy. It is also awarded posthumously to the next-of-kin in the name of those who were killed in action or have died of wounds received in action.
Although thought to be an award, Brig. Gen. Mark Corson, commander of the 103rd ESC, and a Maryville, Mo., native, reminded the ceremony attendees that one does not get awarded the Purple Heart, because it's a circumstance of combat.
"These four individuals have sacrificed more than their time, will and effort," he said. "They have, in fact, sacrificed their blood and their health for one of the two awards that no one wants to get- those two awards being the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge."
Brigadier General Corson went on to say that although it was a day of celebration, the attendees could not forget that those four Soldiers are lucky to be alive.
"These Soldiers are fortunate," he said. "The bad news is that you are getting a Purple Heart; the good news is that your Families are not the ones getting the Purple Heart on your behalf. We are very thankful that these four Soldiers were wounded only moderately and that they are here with us today."