Wounded Soldiers Receive Purple Heart Medals at Walter Reed
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2007 Six wounded U.S. Army soldiers today received Purple Heart medals here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center before an audience of nearly 250 family and friends, fellow servicemembers and medical staff.
The Purple Heart, awarded to U.S. servicemembers wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, is one of the most recognized and respected military decorations.
One by one, each wounded warrior was called onstage to receive his medal from Army Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy commanding general, North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, and Command Sergeant Major Jeffery S. Hartless, Warrior Transition Brigade.
After pinning a Purple Heart to the left side of each soldier's shirtfront, Tucker addressed the crowd.
"I don't know how you feel about what just happened,” he said, “but if the little hairs on the back of your neck don't stand up, you're probably in the wrong place right now. These soldiers willingly volunteered to answer the call to duty to our nation. They answered the call for boots on the ground, and we are in debt to them.
"They have served their nation with distinction. They are America's heroes," Tucker said. "Americans love their heroes and they always have. They act as an inspiration to all of us.”
The Purple Heart recipients are:
-- Sgt. Jerald Gragg of Granite Falls, N.C., an infantry team leader assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas, was wounded Nov. 11, 2006, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol vehicle in Baghdad. In addition to earning the Purple Heart with the 1st Oak Leaf Cluster, Gragg also received the Combat Infantry Badge for engaging in active ground combat against enemy forces.
-- Sgt. Aeron Rimando of Carson, Calif., an artilleryman assigned to Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo., was wounded Nov. 28, 2006, when an IED detonated near his patrol vehicle in Baghdad. Rimando also received the Combat Action Badge for actively engaging, or being engaged by, enemy forces.
-- Sgt. Hector M. Lopez, Jr., of El Paso, Texas, an infantryman assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bliss, Texas, was wounded Dec. 19, 2006, during a sniper attack while conducting a patrol in Mosul, Iraq. Lopez also received the Combat Infantry Badge for engaging in active ground combat against enemy forces.
-- Sgt. Wade Walling of Connersville, Ind., an infantryman assigned to the Indiana National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, was wounded Jan. 17, 2007, when an IED detonated near his vehicle while patrolling near Ramadi, Iraq. Walling also received the Combat Action Badge for actively engaging, or being engaged by, enemy forces.
-- Spc. Thomas R. Darr of Lyman, Wyo., an infantryman assigned as a gunner with the 1041st Engineer Company, Wyoming National Guard, was wounded Jan. 27, 2007, by an IED blast during convoy operations in the Iraqi Area of Operations. In addition to receiving the Purple Heart, Darr also received separately a Purple Heart with the 1st Oak Leaf Cluster for wounds inflicted by a rocket propelled grenade during convoy operations in Tikrit, Iraq. He also received the Combat Action Badge for actively engaging, or being engaged by, enemy forces.
-- Spc. Joseph D. Bacani of Tustin, Calif., a cavalry scout assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas, was wounded March 20 during a sniper attack while conducting an IED reconnaissance mission southwest Baghdad. Bacani also received the Combat Action Badge for actively engaging, or being engaged by, enemy forces.