By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 26, 2008 - Support from their fellow citizens is vital to the success of servicemembers fighting the war on terror, a soldier who earned the Bronze Star Medal in Iraq said today. "Support means everything," Army Staff Sgt. John Aughtman saidin an interview on the "ASY Live" program on BlogTalkRadio. "A letter, a care package, a telephone call, a visit, a blanket -- anything means everything."
"ASY Live" is part of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. As a squad leader, Aughtman earned the Bronze Star Medal for his leadership after an attack in Tikrit. He cared for his soldiers and led them to safety before taking care of his own injuries. He has served three combat deployments, and plans to go back.
"I've had some good times and bad times, and I can't wait to get back in," he said.
Aughtman talked about his time being deployed before his injury, and emphasized the importance of support organizations that helped to keep him connected to what was going on back home.
"The home-front groups go above and beyond, doing great things for us," he said. "It may not be a lot, but it is something when they are far away from home."
In particular, Aughtman said, care packages, letters from people around the country and notes from elementary school children really warmed his heart. "They would send care packages and movies around the holidays – it kind of warms you up when you get something like that and have been deployed for awhile," he said.
On April 22 2007, the day he was injured, Aughtman was on a routine patrol returning to his forward operating base when his vehicle was struck by a grenade. He was knocked unconscious for about a minute and a half.
"When I woke up," he said, "I started testing the other soldiers for injuries, and I found that one soldier had shrapnel wounds to about 90 percent of his right leg and one soldier had internal injuries." Without hesitation, Aughtman treated the soldier with the shrapnel wounds and kept the other soldier conscious before deciding to get back to the forward operating base on a "self-medevac" to get attention for his own injuries.
Although many would agree that Aughtman is a hero, he doesn't view himself that way. "I am just doing my job and doing what I am supposed to do. ... The men to your left and right are going to do anything and everything to help you out as long as you do the same," he said. "I lost a friend in Iraq. "He paid the ultimate sacrifice and is a true hero."
While recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, Aughtman received a wide variety of care and support that he credits with assisting in his speedy recovery.
"I received blankets clothes, money, letters everything you think you would need while you are in the hospital," he explained. "One group gave us a credit card to buy clothes, because we didn't have any when we had to self-medevac. Another group gave me a handmade quilt that is very nice and warm.
"The thing that stands out the most," he continued, "were the people at Walter Reed. They came around every day to check on me and talk to me and see how I was doing. They were just there to talk and make the experience a little better."
To support groups that work tirelessly to provide for servicemembers, Aughtman had words of encouragement to offer. "Continue your support, and don't forget about us," he said.
(Jamie Findlater, host of "ASY Live," works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)