3SB support operations officer receives Purple Heart
October 7, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The golden border draws the eye, perfectly contrasting the dark purple center. The unmistakable profile of George Washington sits directly below his coat of arms, a simple reminder of his legacy carried on. On the back are three words, 'For Military Merit;' words that mean so much, yet not enough to convey the sacrifices made.
Four years after being wounded in Iraq, Lt. Col. Randall C. Page, the Support Operations Officer for the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, Third Infantry Division, was awarded the Purple Heart at Marne Garden, Sept. 30.
"It's kind of surreal," Lt. Col. Page said. "It's a great honor and I consider myself lucky to be receiving an award that most people receive posthumously."
The predecessor to the Purple Heart was the Badge of Military Merit, which was established in 1782 by George Washington, then commanding general of the Continental Army. The Purple Heart was established in 1932 and is the oldest award still presented to U.S. service members. Since its inception, there have been more than 1.5 million Purple Hearts awarded to U.S. Military Personnel.
"Although it is a great honor, the Purple Heart is not something you have aspirations of receiving when you join the Army," Lt. Col. Page said. "The enemy always gets a vote though."
In 2007, Lt. Col. Page served as a Military Transition Unit team chief embedded with the 2nd Iraqi Army Division in Mosul, Iraq. In August of that year elements of the 2nd IA and Lt. Col. Page's team performed Cordon and Search Operations in a community east of Mosul. After completing operations and heading back to the IA base, the patrol noticed an oncoming Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device attempting to cross the median. The SVBIED detonated 15 meters from Lt. Col. Page, disintegrating, except for a spring coil and a basketball-sized piece of the engine block, which penetrated the windshield of his vehicle.
Against his better judgment, Lt. Col. Page exited his vehicle in a kill zone to administer first aid to an IA gunner who had been struck by shrapnel. The patrol returned to base for the evening and Lt. Col. Page was later diagnosed with a concussion, severe hearing loss and optical atrophy of the left eye.
"I thank God for being with me then and today," Lt. Col. Page said. "If there had been one slight tweak in the enemies' operations, I might not be here."
Though he was wounded he would not change anything about that day, simply stating that the actions that took place were out of his hands.
"You don't refuse to go outside the wire for fear of dying," Lt. Col. Page said. "We're trained to put ourselves and our men in danger if need be in order to accomplish the mission."
Though the four-year delay in receiving his Purple Heart is not common, Lt. Col. Page said he understands that the process often takes time.
"I've heard of World War 2 and Korean Veterans that are still waiting to receive their Purple Hearts," he said. "It's amazing how long these things can take sometimes."
"The life lesson for all of you is if you know what's right, then do what's right and don't stop until right is done, no matter what it is, even if it takes four years and a few days to see it through," Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, Third Infantry Division commanding general, said during the ceremony.
Now that he has received his Purple Heart, Lt. Col. Page said he has no plans of adding an Oak Leaf Cluster to the ribbon.
"When I joined the Army as a private there were three things I never wanted; a combat patch, a combat action badge and a Purple Heart," he said. "I consider myself lucky to have received all three and still be here."
Receiving the Purple Heart is an honor that connects Soldiers throughout time as well as creating bonds between those that are still serving that can never be severed.
"I volunteered to serve my country by joining the Army and serving overseas in a combat environment," Lt. Col. Page said. "It takes it to another level to be injured in combat. I feel a stronger bond with my Soldiers because of it."