By By Will King Staff Writer, Leavenworth LampJune 16, 2009
Two Iraq veterans and students in the Fort Leavenworth-based Army Wounded Warrior Education Initiative finally received the combat awards they earned years earlier.
Lt. Col. Warren Dewey, director of the AW2EI program, said the two Soldiers had not previously received their awards because they had been medically evacuated from the combat theater. He said it took about four months of working with their former units and Army Human Resources Command to complete the necessary paperwork for their awards.
Brig. Gen. Edward Cardon, deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College, presented the awards at a ceremony June 10 at the Lewis and Clark Center.
Chief Warrant Officer Ari Jean-Baptiste was awarded an Air Medal, Air Medal with "V" Device, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Action Badge.
While assigned to C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Calvary Regiment, Jean-Baptiste received injuries to his feet and back after his OH-58D Kiowa helicopter experienced engine failure and crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in March 2007. He and his pilot-in-command, Chief Warrant Officer Pat Scroggin, managed to autorotate the Kiowa to the ground, saving their lives.
Jean-Baptiste was joined at the ceremony by his wife Saradgene, daughter Pria and son Noah. He credited his family with helping him recover and move forward with his life and his studies.
"They're the ones who have been instrumental in helping me through the tough times in the first few years, and the good times," Jean-Baptiste said.
Retired Capt. Wes Fine was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
Fine was a platoon leader in Company B, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, leading a mission in the Habbaniya area of Iraq in April 2005, when his unit was attacked by indirect fire. He received shrapnel to his chest and face, leading to the removal of his left eye.
"This is really meaningful for me," Fine said at the awards ceremony. "The Army is the highlight of my life; it still is."
Fine began his graduate studies at Hawaii Pacific University, and has now completed his first year in the University of Kansas' international studies master's program. Jean-Baptiste has completed his first year as a graduate student in KU's Political Science Department.
Fine and Jean-Baptiste are two of the seven active-duty or medically retired wounded warriors in the first group of AW2EI students at KU, and will be instructors at CGSC after graduation. The other five AW2EI students were also at the awards ceremony.
"It's quite impressive what you've been able to accomplish," Cardon told the AW2EI students.