By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceNovember 25, 2008
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush presented a prestigious award to a severely wounded warrior at Fort Campbell, Ky., who mentors other wounded troops and their families and volunteers at the post's Fisher House.
Bush presented the President's Volunteer Service award to Army Staff Sgt. Josh Forbess, praising him for serving his nation in uniform, and going the extra measure to serve others in need.
The president lauded Forbess during a pre-Thanksgiving Day visit to the Fort Campbell, noting that he'll greatly miss the opportunities he's had as commander in chief to spend time with those who serve the country in uniform.
Forbess is one of just five 101st Airborne Division Soldiers who survived a fiery Black Hawk helicopter collision over Mosul, Iraq, in November 2003. Then-Maj. Gen. David H. Petreaus, who commanded the "Screaming Eagles" at the time, called the crash that killed 17 of his Soldiers a gut-wrenching low point for the entire division.
"The loss of 17 Soldiers in one night when two helicopters collided over Mosul was just a blow beyond belief," he told American Forces Press Service after the division had redeployed in March 2004. "It's like losing 17 children. It's almost beyond comprehension -- a terrible, terrible blow to the organization and the individuals in it."
Forbess, who didn't wake up from the incident until eight weeks later, lost an ear and half of his nose and received broken bones, extensive burns and smoke inhalation injuries.
The accident launched his long, painful and heroic return to recovery as he struggled to return to duty and help his fellow wounded Soldiers.
As he recovered, the 29-year-old Decatur, Ill., native called the opportunity to return to active duty the driving force that kept him motivated. "I love my job. I love training Soldiers," he told American Forces Press Service as he was undergoing treatment at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "There's nothing else I could do that I would enjoy as much as that."
He expressed no doubt that he'd achieve his goal. "As long as you have heart, there's nothing to stop you," he said. The driving force behind his efforts to recover fully and return to full duty in the military is "all in here," he said, tapping his chest.
Today, Forbess is back on duty as senior noncommissioned officer at Fort Campbell's Soldier and Family Assistance Center. He's also been a volunteer at the post Fisher House since it opened in 2006, leading wounded warrior meetings and providing an example of what's possible for other wounded troops.
On hearing of the honor he would receive, Forbess told a local reporter "just to be nominated is great." He said he expected to be speechless when he received the award.
Bush created the President's Volunteer Service Award in 2002 to recognize Americans who make a difference through volunteer service. He has presented more than 650 of the awards.