FORT HOOD, Texas - Friends and family of the 1st Cavalry Division gathered at the Fort Hood Catering and Conference Center Dec. 11 to honor three First Team troopers and recognize the efforts of nearly 30 volunteers.

The Soldiers, who were wounded in combat operations in Iraq, were presented Purple Heart medals by Col. Paul Wentz, the commander of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

"Freedom is costly, and we've all paid in some way," Wentz said. "Some of us have paid with time in support of freedom, some with money to support freedom, and some, like these Soldiers, have paid with life's blood in support of freedom."

Wentz said that the Soldiers being honored join the company of well over half a million Purple Heart recipients alive today, all of whom have sacrificed in the name of something higher than themselves.

"I ask that you never forget that the Purple Heart is a national symbol of the sacrifices made by Americans in harm's way in the name of freedom," Wentz said.

One such Soldier is 1st Lt. Anna King-McCrilliss, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native with the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

King-McCrilliss, who joined the Army in 2001, was wounded in late May when a mortar round landed several feet from the trailer she was in, knocking her unconscious.

She spent another five months serving in Iraq, thinking her injury wasn't that bad and not wanting to leave her Soldiers behind, before she was sent home to get medical help.

"It came to a point where the headaches were really bad," King-McCrilliss said. "I was finally told 'I'm going home.'"

She said the hardest part of it all has been being separated from her Soldiers, but she keeps in touch with them everyday through email or instant messenger.

The Soldiers of her unit are scheduled to return in January and King-McCrilliss hopes that she will be able to be there to welcome them home.