FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan " When smoke has clouded their vision and battle noise has deafened their ears, Soldiers need to gather their nerves to survive, but the true test lies with continuing the fight after being wounded.

Spc. Antony Gaston, combat engineer, A Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), received a Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for his valorous actions May 29 in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

“I knew I would see combat, but I always thought it would be somebody else (who) got hurt, not me,” Gaston said.

Insurgents attacked Gaston’s patrol with two 82 mm mortar rounds; the first round was ineffective, the second hit meters away from him, sending shrapnel in his direction.

“There’s a lot of people (who) go into something like this scared, but when it actually comes down to it, they surprise themselves; there’s a lot of guys who are gung-ho, but when they’re actually put to the test, they freeze,” Gaston said. “You never really know until you’re out there.”

A golf-ball-sized piece of shrapnel penetrated Gaston’s leg, sending crippling pain throughout his body.

“The stories about the adrenaline making all the pain go away aren’t true; you can still feel it, but you just have to push through it,” he said.

With shrapnel tearing at his leg, Gaston found the strength to get to his feet and position himself in order to suppress the enemy.

“The first thing I thought was ‘they just shot at me; I need to shoot back,’” he said. “It wasn’t out of anger; I was just doing my duty.”

With the added help of Gaston’s squad automatic weapon machine gun, the patrol was able to suppress the enemy attack and force the insurgents to retreat.

“Everything you ever go through makes you that much stronger, for the next challenge that comes ahead,” he said.

Gaston is expected to make a full recovery and return to his position as a semi-automatic weapon gunner and combat engineer with 3rd BCT.