FORT HOOD, Texas - Friends and family of the 1st Cavalry Division gathered at the Fort Hood Catering and Conference Center Jan. 29 to honor six First Team troopers and recognize the efforts of nearly 25 volunteers.

For the first time, since the First Team deployed more than 15 months ago, Maj. Gen. (P) Joseph F. Fil Jr., the 1st Cavalry Division commander, was able to be present at the monthly Purple Heart ceremony in person rather than on tape.

"It's a tough fight over there. We lost a lot of Soldiers. We lost 488 troops," Fil said. "And we had probably four or five times that many injured. You see six of them sitting here today."

Fil continued by stating that it's a tough fight, but al-Qaeda is no longer in charge of any place in Baghdad thanks to those selfless Soldiers, some of which were sitting in the audience. He wanted to thank them for their sacrifice.

But some of the Soldiers were hesitant about being in the ceremony.

"I would rather not be recognized," said Sgt. Phillip Stockard, Co. B, 2nd Battlaion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. "It was my job. The only thing I really wanted out of the military was the combat infantry badge, to say that I've done it, got the paycheck, got the T-shirt, put the hat on, and called it a day."

Fil understood that.

"I know that many (of the recipients) feel uncomfortable with a public ceremony, and that is natural," he continued. "The Purple Heart is the one award that no one ever wants to get. It's the one ribbon you don't want to have. It's a hard one to earn."

"They would rather just keep working without such recognition," he added.

The Purple Heart is a stark reminder of the reality of combat operations, Fil said.

"It symbolizes the sacrifice of men and women, who have willingly placed themselves in harms way and have been wounded as a result," he said. "This is the first medal to be had in the Army, developed by George Washington himself, and it is such a great honor to have it. You earned it and I am very proud of you."

Fil was also proud to be able to recognize the volunteer spirit that is alive and well in the Fort Hood community.

"All of those who are recognized today have dedicated themselves to selfless service and the community is much, much better for it," Fil said. "Our volunteers have done more than they think. Not only have they helped us with the projects and programs, but they have helped strengthen our community."

This was the last ceremony Fil would preside over prior to his relinquishment of command Feb. 1 on Cooper Field before heading to the 8th U.S. Army in Korea.