Wolfowitz Presents Purple Heart to Soldier Wounded in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 26, 2004 Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz presented the Purple Heart at the Pentagon today to a soldier wounded when the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad came under attack by Iraqi insurgents last October.
Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (right), presents the Purple Heart to Army Col. Elias Nimmer during a March 26 Pentagon ceremony. Photo by R. D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wolfowitz, who also was staying in the hotel during the Oct. 26 attack, met Army Col. Elias Nimmer at the 28th Combat Support Hospital, where Nimmer and four others who worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority were treated for serious injuries from the attack.
Nimmer was the only service member hospitalized. Another soldier, Lt. Col. Charles H. Buehring with Army Central Command Headquarters (Forward), was killed during the attack.
As Wolfowitz presented Nimmer the Purple Heart, he recalled how inspired he had been by Nimmer's commitment to the coalition mission in Iraq.
When the two men first met, Nimmer was being administered oxygen and was receiving treatment for shrapnel injuries to his spine, nerve damage and a perforated eardrum. Wolfowitz said he asked Nimmer, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, how he felt about rebuilding a new Middle East. Nimmer, who asked the medical staff to remove his oxygen mask so he could meet the deputy secretary, responded with a "thumbs up," Wolfowitz said.
Nimmer's wife, Leann, said he attributes her husband's upbringing in a war-torn country with giving him the instinct to immediately roll from his bed onto the floor when the first rockets hit the hotel just after 6 a.m. He remained facedown on the floor as a barrage of rockets hit the hotel, one impacting directly inside his room, 916.
During the ceremony, Wolfowitz praised Nimmer as an example of the "tremendous courage" that all members of the armed forces exhibit on a daily basis as they take the front lines in the war on terror. Nimmer, a Medical Service Corps officer, deployed to Iraq in June to serve as an adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Health.
Wolfowitz said Nimmer also typifies the "extraordinary contributions" immigrants have brought to the United States and to the U.S. military.
"This is a day I will remember as long as I live," said Nimmer as he accepted Purple Heart. He thanked his coworkers within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology for their support, and the medical community for its part in helping him recover.
"After I realized that I couldn't move, I knew that I would be taken care of, and I was," he said.
Air Force Lt. Col. John Bowersox, Nimmer's roommate at the Al Rasheed Hotel who was away from Baghdad on the day of the attack, praised the staff at the 28th Combat Support Hospital for providing quick, decisive care that he said has enabled Nimmer to walk today. Bowersox, a physician also working with the Iraqi Ministry of Health at the time of the attack, particularly credited Lt. Col. Rocco Armonda for conducting surgery immediately to remove shrapnel from Nimmer's spine.
Nimmer was taken to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany the night of the attack and continues to receive treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Following three surgeries, Nimmer is back to work at the Pentagon.