WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2008) -- Nine Soldiers received the Purple Heart and one of them the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device during a ceremony Oct. 23 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren awarded the Purple Heart to:

Aca,!Ac Sgt 1st Class Andrew Allman
Aca,!Ac Sgt 1st Class Luis Morales
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Eric Duling
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Jeffrey Hardaway
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Joseph Shong
Aca,!Ac Cpl. Jonathan James, who also earned the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device
Aca,!Ac Spc. Joseph Dickens
Aca,!Ac Spc. Cory Mitchell
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Benjamin Lightner

James earned the Bronze Star for his action during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan where he helped defeat an enemy ambush. When awarded for bravery, the Bronze Star is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces

A native of Mountainview, Ark., James was assigned as a forward observer to Able Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry. His citation states that his "unwavering courage, selfless service, and situational awareness while under fire were decisive in his platoon achieving fire superiority and defeating the enemy ambush,"

He was injured Sept. 27, 2007 by mortar and sniper fire in the Pech River Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

Allman, of Columbus, Ohio, is a Special Forces medic assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, NC. He was injued April 24 by an improvised explosive device in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

"I'd like to thank God, my wife and all the medical staff here at Walter Reed. You guys have been great," Allman said.

Morales, from Fredericksburg, Va., is a Special Forces Intelligence sergeant assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C. He was injured April 6 by multiple gunshot wounds during an air assault mission in Shok Valley, Afghanistan. He also thanked the Walter Reed staff for the care he's received here.

Duling, of Holt, Mich., is a squad leader assigned to the 710th Ordnance Company (EOD), Fort Lewis, Wash. He was injured Feb. 3, 2006 by a blister agent while conducting operations in North Taji, Iraq.

Hardaway, from Silver Spring, Md., is a recovery nurse assigned to the 555th Forward Surgical Team at Fort Hood, Texas. He was injured April 7, 2003 by a direct strike from a surface-to-surface missile in Baghdad, Iraq.

Shong, of Jackson, Mich., is a truck driver assigned to the 1461st Transportation Company (Heavy Equipment Transport), Michigan National Guard. He was injured Jan. 18, 2007 by an IED while conducting convoy operations in Mosul, Iraq.

Dickens, of Elyria, Ohio, is a machine gunner assigned to 84th Engineer Company, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. He was injured July 6 by an IED attack while conducting a route clearance near Ashraf, Iraq.

Mitchell, of Newport News, Va., is a squad leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-12th Cavalry, 1st Armored Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas. He was injured Aug. 24, 2007 by an IED while conducting route clearance in Baqubah, Iraq.

Lightner, from New Bloomfield, Pa., is a scout assigned to A Troop, 161st Cavalry, 506th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. He was injured June 5 by an IED attack while conducting Convoy Ops in Zormat, Afghanistan.

After pinning the medals on the Soldier's uniforms, Geren thanked each Soldier and their family members present for their service and sacrifices. He also spoke individually to each Soldier and their family members after the ceremony, again thanking them for their service and asking about the care they're receiving at Walter Reed and length of time they've been there.

The Purple Heart is one of the U.S. military's oldest and most distinguished decorations. It is awarded to servicemembers wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States.

(Bernard Little serves as the command information officer for Walter Reed Army Medical Center.)