Fort Rucker honors heroes with DFC, Purple Heart
June 13, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 14, 2012) -- Fort Rucker honored two of its heroes June 8 as a Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart were awarded to members of the 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Andrew Wilson received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 1st Lt. Edwin Herring was awarded the Purple Heart.
The Distinguished Flying Cross is the highest award for Aviation acts and it is given for an Aviator's acts of valor in a combat situation, explained Lt. Col. James Ward, commander of the 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Regt. during the ceremony held at the post theater.
The award was presented to Wilson for his response, as a platoon leader and Air Ambulance pilot-in-command, to multiple urgent MEDEVAC missions in support of Task Force Bastogne and Operation Strong Eagle, March 29, 2011.
In the face of continuing enemy fire, Wilson and his Dustoff 72 crew, along with the PIC and crew of Dustoff 73, responded to multiple urgent MEDEVAC Point-of-Injury missions in Afghanistan's hostile Kunar Province to evacuate six critically wounded American Soldiers and retrieve three American Soldiers killed in action.
"He knew he was going into a bad situation, but [Wilson] didn't blink once. His crew launched and over the next four hours made seven turns into extremely hostile terrain at 30 and 40 degree slopes with one wheel of the Blackhawk landing, sliding down the slippery slopes," said Lt. Col. Dennis McKernan, Wilson's battalion commander during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.
He did this while coordinating Apache gunship support and synchronizing the efforts of the ground crews, all while holding hovers for wounded to board, McKernan said.
"I'm elated," Wilson said."It's a huge honor to receive such an award. I definitely want to recognize the crew that I was with. It takes a lot of people to conduct this kind of mission and I was with a bunch of great guys and gals that really would do anything to bring our Soldiers home."
"I'm very proud of him," added Wilson's wife, Karen. "I'm proud of him, award or not. They have an excellent mission and it's so important. I'm just always so proud of him. He does a great job."
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed by enemy fire, Ward explained during the ceremony.
"It symbolizes the sacrifice the men and women of our armed forces have endured in defending our country's freedom," he said. "The Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not recommended for it, rather, he or she is entitled to it."
Herring was a sergeant with a scout sniper platoon in the 1st Infantry Division when he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of about 17 improvised explosive device attacks within a three-month period during a 2007 deployment to Baghdad, Iraq.
He also received an Army Commendation Medal of Valor during that deployment for saving one of his fellow Soldiers, Ward said.
"This is a significant day and it is important that we recognize your combat injuries and your contributions to the Army," he said to Herring. "I'd like to thank you for all of your service."
Herring said the award was a "huge honor."
"The injury took place in 2007, so I've been fighting it for as long as I could," Herring said after the ceremony. "There comes a point where you have to finally admit that you can't carry on the way you have been. That point came for me when I realized if I carried on the way I was, I would be putting my men at risk. That's always been the opposite of what I tried to do."
Herring's 4-year-old son, Eddie, attended the ceremony and stood by his dad on the stage as Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, presented the Purple Heart.
"He's right at that age where he'll remember this," Herring said. "It's good to have him here. I hope he has a sense of pride one day because this award is more for my Family than for me."
Herring said he wanted to thank his former unit that recommended him for the award when leadership found out about the extent of his injuries.
"I was honored by them and I'm truly grateful to all the staff here," he said. "There are so many people who have helped to make this happen."
Ward said standards were high for both awards because of the dangers Soldiers face while deployed.
"Over the last 10 years of war, many of our men and women have been subjected to these dangers," he said. "These heroes came through. They helped bring themselves and their compatriots back with honor.
"Both of these awards are very significant," he continued. "It's an incredible honor for me to help recognize the great things they've done for our Army, for our Soldiers and for their country."