Thursday, November 5, 2009

Soldiers awarded Purple Heart

Five Soldiers received the U.S. military’s oldest and one of its most distinguished decorations Oct. 30 during a Purple Heart ceremony in Heaton Pavilion’s Joel Auditorium at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

First Sgt. John Zaremba, Staff Sgt. Everette Palmer, Sgts. Christophe Goodrich and Jonathan Morita, and Spc. Adam Rosenbaum earned the Purple Heart after being injured in either Afghanistan or Iraq earlier this year.

The Purple Heart, awarded in the name of the president, is earned by servicemembers wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces [provided the wound would necessitate treatment by a medical officer].

The Soldiers who earned the Purple Heart did so “fighting for freedom in defending our country,” said Maj. Gen. Sean J. Byrne, commanding general of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command and guest speaker at the ceremony.

Byrne quoted George Washington in saying that the Purple Heart is awarded for “instances of unusual gallantry, but also for extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way that should merit due reward.”

“Clearly that’s true today as it was then,” Byrne said.

Washington established the Purple Heart when he was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1782. It was then known as the Badge of Military Merit. Washington’s actual order in establishing the badge includes the phrase, “Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”

“Even people with no military experience understand the significance of the Purple Heart,” Byrne said.

“Clearly because of the nature of the award and the circumstances involved, this is more than an award, it is in fact, an entitlement,” Byrne said.

He added that as of Sept. 30, 2009, almost 21,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded to servicemembers in Iraq, and more than 3,000 awarded in Afghanistan.

“Far too many have been awarded posthumously,” Byrne said. “It’s wonderful to be here to recognize these Soldiers who are with us today and have come very close to paying the ultimate sacrifice.

“The team helped get you off the battlefield,” Byrne said. “The team helped you recover. We’ve been very fortunate we’ve got great medical care that has been provided to you and has brought you back.

“One thing I have found over the last seven or eight years we’ve been involved in hostilities is the great resilience of our Soldiers those who have been wounded, those who have been in the Warrior Transition Units, those who have had far, far catastrophic wounds. It’s the attitude I’ve seen in each and every one of them. Generally their thought process is, I was doing what our country asked us to do and I sure want to get back with my unit; I want to get back with my team.’

“That is pretty awesome when you consider the circumstances behind what has happened to them,” Byrne said. “It’s a special group. You’ll be recognized for the rest of your career by that purple medal and ribbon that will be on your uniform. You’ll be recognized after your career by that lapel pin you may or may not wear on your jacket.”

He also thanked the families of the Soldiers for their service, love, support and dedication they’ve brought to their servicemember.

Zaremba is an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was injured Sept. 4 when his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol operations in Afghanistan.

Palmer is a field artillery squad leader assigned to 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. He as injured July 14 when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while on combat patrol in Quaryatar, Iraq.

Goodrich is a forward observer assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. He was injured July 30 while on dismounted partrol when he received a gunshot wound in Korengal Valley, Aghanistan.

Morita is a gunner assigned to 2nd Battalion, 121th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division, Macon, Ga. He was injured July 8 while on dismounted patrol when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Forward Operating Base Kushman, Afghanistan.

Rosehnbaum is a gunner assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. he was injured June 2 when his vehicle was hit by an explosively formed projectile while conducting battlefield circulation outside of FOB Loyalty in Baghdad, Iraq.

After receiving the Purple Heart, the Soldiers thanked their families, units, fellow servicemembers, and the medical care they’ve received after their injuries for helping in their recoveries.