By Sharon Taylor ConwayJune 30, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 30, 2008) -- Nine Soldiers received the Purple Heart in a ceremony held at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Friday.
The Soldiers represented nine different states with one common bond of uncommon valor - sacrifice for the nation, according to Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon, Jr., director of the Army Staff, who awarded the Soldiers with their medals.
The Purple Heart is awarded to servicemembers wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.
"I am truly honored to be here with you because you have taken up the call against terrorists and tyrants who want to destroy our way of life," said Huntoon. "Thank you for your service-thank you to the families as well...you have also served your nation."
"I, too, have gotten that call from the United States Army, that someone was hurt," Huntoon said. He explained that he visited Balad last November, "not as a Soldier, but as a father," when his own son was injured.
Two of the nine Soldiers honored at Friday's ceremony, Sgt. Francis Collins, III and Pfc. David A. Knapp are assigned to units in Germany.
Collins is a squad leader assigned to 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany. While traveling in a March 7 convoy headed to Baghdad, an explosively formed projectile left Collins with a traumatic brain injury, shrapnel under his left eye and a 20 percent hearing loss in his left ear.
Collins said he was grateful for his wife Garnisha, "his rib," who was by his side to see him through six surgeries. With six months or more of rehab ahead of him, Collins counts on the support from his spouse, their three-year-old son "PJ," younger brother Thomas and parents Francis, Jr. and Rose, all present at Friday's ceremony.
"I want to thank anyone in the medical field - you kept me alive," said Collins, who also received the Combat Action Badge.
Knapp is a military police officer assigned to the 230th Military Police Company, Kaiserslautern, Germany. He lost both legs when the convoy he was riding in was hit by multiple EFP's, on its way to Baghdad.
"He's coming along well," said his mom, Jeanette. Knapp spends five hours a day in rehab at the Military Advance Training Center. "This quite possibly is the most focused individual you will ever meet. Very determined," she said.
Seven of the nine Soldiers receiving Purple Hearts at the ceremony are assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. Capt. Andrew Lynch, a company commander, and Pfc. Darrell Reid, a gunner, were injured in the same attack during a mounted patrol in Tuz, Iraq, April 14.
Lynch acknowledged Gulf Company, Pfc. Reid and Spc. Arturo Huerta-Cruz. Huerta-Cruz was the only Soldier riding in the vehicle with Lynch and Reid who did not survive the blast.
"Thanks to everyone who kept me alive," said Lynch, who also received the Bronze Star.
Capt. Robert Hinchman, was injured May 11 by an improvised explosive device while conducting a night operations air assault mission northeast of Baghdad. In addition to the Purple Heart, Hinchman also received the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
The rifle platoon leader explained that the Purple Heart was the one ribbon he never wanted to receive.
"I have no regrets. I love the Army. I love my job. I got to be a rifle platoon leader for 22 months and it was the best 22 months of my life," said Hinchman, who received a rousing standing ovation.
Purple Heart recipient Spc. Hein Tran echoed the same sentiments.
"No matter where I go or what I do, I will always be a 10th Mountain Soldier," he said.
Three other 10th Mountain Division Soldiers received the Purple Heart. First Lt. David Woodard is a platoon leader who was injured by an EFP in eastern Baghdad, April 28. Spc. Anthony Norris was on duty as a tower guard at his forward operating base in Rustamiyah, Iraq when he was injured by a blast, April 9. Pfc. Frank Pierson was hurt in an EFP explosion in the West Rashid District of Baghdad, March 4.
Huntoon thanked the medical staff at Walter Reed and called the triad of care "remarkable." He said the day to day compassion shown by the Walter Reed staff was the underpinning of the military medical community.
(Sharon Taylor Conway writes for the Stripe newspaper at Walter Reed Army Medical Center)