By Stephanie Rush, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsNovember 4, 2008
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - A member of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment received a Purple Heart at a ceremony here, Oct. 24.
Sgt. Mark Yarbrough received the award for wounds he sustained when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near his vehicle while on patrol in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, June 17.
"I got thrown from the vehicle - about 30 feet - and ended up in a canal," Yarbrough explained. "My Soldiers pulled me out and I realized I had (damage) to my hand."
The Purple Heart is awarded to service members wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.
"We all give some sweat, some tears, a whole bunch of energy, and we sacrifice our families during this global war on terrorism," said Maj. Adelaido Godinez, rear detachment commander, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, at the ceremony. "Sgt. Yarbrough gave his blood, a couple of fingers and half of another (hand)."
Godinez remembered when he first talked to Yarbrough's wife, Spc. Stephanie Yarbrough, that she was very composed about the situation. At the time she was stationed in Alaska but on leave in North Carolina.
"When I told her (about her husband's injuries), she was like, 'OK. Is he OK'' Just as calm as you can imagine," Godinez said. "'How soon can I get to his side'' Just calm, like it was natural. It is not natural to get blown up."
Stephanie, who is eight months pregnant, was primarily concerned with the logistics of traveling to see her husband.
"I've been over there, I've seen people hurt. I didn't freak out, it was just a matter of how fast can I get there," Stephanie said.
Communication between Yarbrough and his wife helped ease concerns as the recovery process began.
"He let me know exactly what the injuries were. He informed me of what was going on," said Stephanie. "(The) Casualty Affairs Office kept me updated on every surgery, every move he had. I was quite impressed with how easy it was to get me there."
After a brief stop in San Diego, where he was joined by Stephanie, Mark returned to Hawaii to complete his recovery at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Though initially assigned to a Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), Yarbrough is now serving as the noncommissioned officer in charge, 1-21st Inf. Regt. Rear Detachment.
"I was in the WTB for a time during my recovery," Yarbrough said. "Once I got pretty steady, I requested to come back to my unit."
Choosing to rejoin his unit despite still undergoing occupational therapy says a lot about Yarbrough's character, according to his co-workers.
"He's dedicated," said Sgt. Pedro Olvera, personnel noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 1-21st Inf. Regt. "He could be in a WTB, but wanted to come back here and help other Soldiers out."