SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - A member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, received a Purple Heart in a ceremony at the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team motor pool, here, Jan. 28.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Pennoni Jr., howitzer section chief, B Battery, received the award for wounds he sustained when his patrol was attacked with a grenade in the Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq, Nov. 18, 2008.

"My patrol team, along with four highly trained Iraqi police officers, was conducting a dismounted patrol of a sector in the city of Ad War, Iraq, a city just south of Tikrit," Pennoni explained. "My squad and I were pulling rear security, and we were crossing an intersection when a grenade landed about two feet away from my right leg."

Pennoni was thrown five feet from the blast onto a sidewalk.

"My medic and an Iraqi police officer pulled me to safety behind a wall," Pennoni continued. "While my medic attended to my injuries, an Iraqi police officer chased after two local nationals on a motorcycle and detained them."

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.

"It's an award most of us don't want to get, but it is one of those awards that is worn with pride," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commanding general, U.S. Army-Pacific, who presented the Purple Heart award to Pennoni.

Though Pennoni sustained injuries to his legs, including some nerve damage, he continues to go to physical therapy three times a week. Because of the extent of the nerve injury, the recovery process could take anywhere from two months to two years. If Pennoni makes a complete recovery, he will rejoin his unit downrange.

Pennoni credits his recovery caseworker, Tammy O'Neil, with making the process go smoothly.

"She has coordinated all of my care, and (has) been there for me since the day I returned from Iraq," said Pennoni. "She has made my recovery go smooth."

Injured during his third deployment, Pennoni was deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, from Jan. 5, 2004, to Feb. 19, 2005, and again Nov. 15, 2006, to Oct. 13, 2007.

Pennoni and his wife, Juliet, have been geographically separated during the last six years due to deployments. Currently living in the Philippines, Juliet will be moving to Lansing, Mich., Pennoni's hometown, to begin working as a registered nurse in April.

"It has always been hard being separated from the woman that I love," Pennoni said. "But it is a sacrifice that we have made, so that we can have a better life and a better life for our daughter Chloe."

Pennoni is stationed in Hawaii until March 2010. He plans to then separate from the Army, return to Lansing to join his family, and attend Michigan State University.

"The Army could not have accomplished as much as we have accomplished without noncommissioned officers. In recognition of that, we've designated 2009 as the 'Year of the NCO,'" Mixon said.

"In the state of Hawaii, we have petitioned the legislation and the governor to designate that this is ... the Year of the NCO, and designate a special day on the 13th of June, in celebration of the 234th Army birthday, as the Day of the NCO," he continued.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mixon answered Soldiers' and their family members' questions and solicited input. He thanked Soldiers, their spouses and family members for the sacrifices they have made during wartime.

"Without our family members, the Army would not exist," Mixon said.

In closing, Pennoni thanked Mixon for presenting the Purple Heart, his wife for her support, and his unit for setting up the ceremony.

"It was an honor for me to have bled in defense of my country, and I would do it again if I have to," Pennoni said.