Skip to comments.The Purple Heart club: It's still growing
Posted on 08/01/2004 10:54:51 AM PDT by BenLurkin
Anthony Arrington extended his hand in order to shake mine. A conventional greeting, of course, but when a man's hand is encased in a glove that is part of a "burn wrap" of padded sleeve going all the way up the arm, that handshake is going to be gentle, rather than hearty. Medals and honor ceremonies for a returning National Guard unit were conducted July 25 in the World War II vintage gymnasium at Camp Roberts. A room full of folks - friends, family - rose to their feet to applaud Staff Sgt. Arrington, the combat veteran of Iraq who bore the most serious wounds suffered by soldiers of the 1498th Transportation Co., the National Guard unit that sent many Antelope Valley soldiers to Iraq.
Arrington nodded gently and accepted the accolade. A muscular, dark-skinned, handsome man, he stood out from the others because instead of wearing desert camouflage, his uniform was the leafy, forest green type. Arrington has been home about a year.
Arrington was wounded in July 2003, just as terms like "Improvised Explosive Device" and "Sunni Triangle" began to enter the American vocabulary. Arrington was driving in a convoy, leaving the U.S. base at Tikrit in Saddam Hussein's home town when the IED exploded and set his truck on fire. Witnesses said that after he exited the cab of the big Heavy Equipment Transporter truck, Arrington rolled himself to put out the flames that burned his arms.
"I have been through the fire," Arrington said. "I have experienced unbelievable pain. The doctors told me I am young and strong but the pain was unbelievable. I still have pain."
His arms, his skin, he said, was burned white, the ebony tone of his epidermis melted away.
On this Sunday, Arrington stood alongside four other Purple Heart recipients from the Guard company that sent many Antelope Valley citizen soldiers to Iraq.
The other Purple Hearts awarded that day went to Sgt. Michael Montgomery, Sgt. Michael Thomas, to Spc. Kristofer Hotvedt and Spc. Steven Newell.
Brig. Gen. James P. Combs (soon to be Maj. Gen.), commander of the California National Guard, pinned the medals to the breast pockets of the soldiers, who waited solemnly for the piece of purple enamel, gold plate and purple ribbon.
Some old soldiers say Purple Hearts are for the unlucky. Combs told the Guard troops the Purple Heart is the nation's oldest honor, dating to the first commander-in-chief, George Washington, whose image decorates the award.
The award's mythology is that it sometimes was awarded based on dubious claims, like rolling in a Jeep accident. Nothing dubious, and everything authentic, in the Army's awards of these medals. The soldiers of the 1498th got theirs honest, from shrapnel and fire.
Gen. Combs noted a few more Purple Hearts, including one for Sgt. Lafoia Mauga, are waiting for paperwork to be completed. Mauga is a Gulf War veteran, so he has two Middle East wars.
That accounts for 12 soldiers wounded in action in the 222 who made the whole year's tour.
Army Commendation medals, with "Valor" devices, were awarded to Sgt. Samuel Chism, Spc. Alejandro Huerta, Spc. Thomas McCammon and Spc. David Miller. These soldiers earned their "Valor" devices as a quick reaction force the day Arrington was wounded, I understand.
Most people enjoy honors, and most soldiers are glad to accept medals. I know a couple of soldiers in this unit too modest to want to discuss their decorations. They know who they are.
Soldiers in this unit who went to war as part of the activated National Guard consider themselves fortunate to have gotten home alive, and for the most part, intact.
One unit leader noted that if he were fortunate enough to get all his soldiers home, almost anything else would be forgiven. But the unit, the 1498th Transportation Co., performed exceptionally well, logging 2.2 million miles on the world's worst and most dangerous highways, and delivering 1.9 million in ammo, gear and supplies to troops in red hot towns like Tirkrit, Fallujah and the antagonistic towns in and around Bagdhad.
As for the Purple Heart soldiers, no swagger, no bravado. Waiting for those small swatches of Purple Ribbon, they stood tall, and stared straight ahead. Maybe a thousand yards straight ahead. The soldiers who were in the fight looked solemn. People who knew where they had been, and who had done what they had to do.
God bless each and every one of you.
Medal recipients: Half of America honors you deeply. The other half is currently doing a little acting in order to gain the White House. They hide the smirk.
The former half will do our duty to keep those who dishonor our military out of power. We kept Gore from stealing the White House, and we'll keep Kerry from doing same.
it makes me sick how kerry didn't earn his. a splinter? self-inflicted? who knows. certainly not like this.
Kerry is a dishonorale man. He brings disgrace to the Military and all of America for using his on-duty combat actions to set the stage to record on film propaganda for his planned run for the WhiteHouse. A ploy. He would have been lost without his trusty, handy, ready-at-the-hip 8mm Kodak to properly display his (next day) staged re-enactments of his so-called bravery episodes on film.
You said it!
What kind of 'injuries' must someone have to be able to get 3 purple hearts in a 3 or 4 month time frame? The shortness of Kerry's tour of duty coupled with the amount of awards that he racked up may be impressive to his followers, but it strikes me as a demeaning of the award itself, for clearly his 'injuries' were next to nothing.