Marine commandant awards ten Purple Hearts in Afghanistan
By STEVE MRAZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2005
(EDITOR’S NOTE: A correction has been made to this article since its original publication.)
MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan — Ten U.S. Marines who were wounded during mid-August in eastern Afghanistan received Purple Hearts during a ceremony Monday.
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada visited this dusty speck of Afghan soil to bestow the nation’s oldest military medal on the chests of the Marines. The Marines are all members of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
Hagee also awarded Joseph P. Thomas with a combat meritorious promotion from lance corporal to corporal.
“First off, how about a round of applause for the Marines we just recognized here,” said Hagee after pinning the medals.
A battle between the Marines and the enemy during Operation Whalers in Kunar province helped eliminate at least 40 suspected rebels.
During the weeklong operation, 10 Marines from Company F shed blood and shared pain on the rocks. Their actions, along with those of another Company F Marine injured in an early August roadside bomb blast, were honored Monday.
During Operation Whalers, Company F Marines were wounded by gunshots and shrapnel. The men range in age from 18 to 31. Two of the Marines were unable to attend Monday’s ceremony because they are recovering in stateside hospitals.
“Fox Company has not had a fatality, and we’re grateful for that,” said Company F 1st Sgt. Craig Cowart. “It’s an honor for us to have the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps present these awards for the Marines’ sacrifice.”
In more than 29 separate engagements, U.S. and Afghan troops killed an estimated 40 suspected rebels during Operation Whalers.
Like most military honors recipients, 2nd Lt. James J. Konstant Jr., Company F’s 3rd Platoon commander, downplayed his medal.
“The individual award for myself is not important,” he said. “The best part for me was the way the platoon responded and what we were able to do to the enemy.”
The medal recipients
Combat Meritorious Promotion:
Cpl. Joseph P. Thomas
2nd Lt. James J. Konstant Jr.
Staff Sgt. Lee Crisp III
Staff Sgt. Kevin B. Walker
Sgt. Andres A. Torres
Cpl. Dustin R. Epperly
Cpl. Joshua A. Huizar*
Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Adams
Lance Cpl. Kendall Boyd
Lance Cpl. Zachary C. Diehl
Lance Cpl. Jason N. Dunaway
* wounded during roadside bomb blast prior to Operation Whalers