By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
July 27, 2007 - Veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan returning home wounded should share their stories with fellow Americans, a top Army Medical Department officer said here today. Army Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy commander of North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery S. Hartless, senior enlisted leader of the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, presented Purple Heart Medals to 14 wounded Army soldiers at Walter Reed before an audience of nearly 250 family and friends, fellow servicemembers and medical staff.
Today's recipients are among the nearly 27,000 servicemembers wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom and nearly 1,500 wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom.
After pinning a Purple Heart to the left side of each soldier's shirtfront, Tucker told the soldiers they now are part of the nation's "hero population" and he urged them to share their experiences with Americans.
"As you move on in life and as you have opportunities, America wants to hear your stories," he said. "You will find that it makes you feel better and that it's part of your healing."
Addressing recipients' families, Tucker expressed his condolences. "When you enlist a soldier, you enlist a family, and when you wound a soldier, you wound a family," he said.
"It's true that some of our lives, especially those here at Walter Reed, have been interrupted by this war," he said, "but these people's lives have been interrupted forever.
"To the soldiers, I thank you for answering the call to duty to your nation," Tucker said. "Each of you continues to inspire all of us with your enthusiasm and your determination and your commitment to service."
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.
Army soldiers who received Purple Heart medals today were:
-- Staff Sgt. Scott Gentry, 31, of Spokane, Wash., assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, from Fort Bliss, Texas. He was traveling in the lead vehicle of a patrol when an IED exploded.
-- Sgt. Andre Marcus Knight, 29, of Petersburg, Va., assigned to 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, from Fort Riley, Kan. His platoon was on a routine clearance mission when a 400-pound bomb planted underneath a sewer line in the road detonated near his vehicle. Two of his fellow soldiers died in the blast.
-- Sgt. Christopher Lynch, 21, of Whetland, Calif., assigned to D Company, 5-73rd Cavalry, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was wounded when a suicide bomber struck his vehicle during a patrol in Iraq.
-- Sgt. Luis Martinez-Ramirez, 38, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, a combat engineer with Puerto Rico's National Guard assigned to A Company, 130th Engineer Battalion. He was wounded in an explosion during an early morning clearance patrol in Baghdad.
-- Sgt. Luis Rivera-Valentin, 30, of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, a combat engineer with Puerto Rico's National Guard assigned to A Company, 130th Engineer Battalion. He was wounded in an explosion during an early morning clearance patrol in Baghdad.
-- Spc. Terence Cook, 21, of Clarksville, Md., assigned to 293rd Military Police Company, from Fort Stewart, Ga. He was returning from a patrol when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.
-- Spc. Justin S. Davis, 27, of Baton Rouge, La., assigned to 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry. He was shot while on watch at a schoolhouse in Ramadi, Iraq.
-- Spc. Daniel Gomez, 27, of Midway City, Calif., a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, in Salah Ad Din province, Iraq. His rifle platoon was conducting cordon-and-search activities when a fellow soldier was hit by a sniper. After successfully treating his fellow soldier, Gomez was hit by a sniper.
-- Spc. Amando Hamid, 20, of New York, N.Y., assigned to 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, from Fort Drum, N.Y. He was participating in a clearance mission in southwestern Baghdad when a 350-pound bomb exploded.
-- Spc. Anthony Labelle, 22, of Worchester, Mass., an Infantry Rifleman assigned to Charlie Troop, 3-4th Cavalry from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He was wounded by an IED blast while on patrol in Tal Afar, Iraq.
-- Spc. Joshua K. Lutz, 24, of Palm Harbor, Fla., assigned to a unit from Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was wounded by an IED blast while on patrol in Iraq.
-- Spc. Jason Pinney, 24, of Decatur, Ind., assigned to B Company, 1-32nd Infantry Battalion, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. He was shot near Afghanistan –Pakistan border in April.
-- Pfc. Ian J. Gillis, 20, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was a gunner assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, from Hohenfels, Germany. He was wounded in an IED explosion while en route to help fellow soldiers.
-- Pfc. Ronnie Hodges, 23, of Jacksonville, N.C., a vehicle operator with Combat Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was wounded when an IED detonated near his convoy as it traveled to his base in Baghdad.