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War torn warriors - VA hospital ceremony honors medal recipients

by Army Spc. Claude Flowers
U.S. Central Command Public Affairs
Photo by Army Spc. Claude Flowers

Army Maj. Gen. Gerald P. Minetti, director of Coalition Coordination at U.S. Central Command, pins specialist rank on Spc. Readen Clavier during an awards ceremony at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

Photo by Army Spc. Claude Flowers

General Minetti pins a Purple Heart on Private 1st Class Damarcus Wilson during the ceremony at the Veterans’ Hospital.

Soldiers who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom were honored at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa Oct. 21.

Army Maj. Gen. Gerald P. Minetti, director of Coalition Coordination at U.S. Central Command, presided over the award and promotion ceremony for two Soldiers injured in the line of duty while overseas.

Army Private 1st Class Damarcus S. Wilson of the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, and Private 1st Class Readen Clavier of the 25th Infantry Division.

"One of the highlights of being in a position of leadership is to recognize young people - and some who aren't so young - for the things that they've done, and in the case of promotions, for the potential they've demonstrated," General Minetti said.

Private Wilson was awarded a Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge for his actions on Aug. 9, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device raced across a road median toward a crowded market, attempting to ram an SUV full of civilians. By directing fire at the device, Private Wilson caused it to detonate early, saving the lives of many, although he personally sustained grievous wounds from the resulting explosion.

During the presentation, General Minetti read aloud an e-mail from Lt. Col. Daniel Pennell, battalion commander of the 1-76th.

"I would appreciate if you would convey my respect, concern, (and) desire to see him well and healthy when he returns," Colonel Pennell wrote. "He's a great young man."

"I thank God for my being here today," Private Wilson told those in attendance. "When I joined the Army about a year and a half ago, I joined for adventure and fun. My mother tried to persuade me not to join, saying, 'Damarcus, why don't you wait? There's a war going on.' But, I told her I wanted to join. Since I was grown, that's what I was going to do.

"Today, if I had the choice, I'd like to be back in Iraq with my military family," he added. "At 20 years old, I'm a humble kind of guy, so to receive this Purple Heart is almost inconceivable to me. No matter who I think I am at 20, I know what the Purple Heart medal means in my life and in history. When I joined, I joined to be one of those unsung heroes: No fanfare, no high visibility, no large crowds.

"Ya'll aren't so large," he joked.

Private Clavier was awarded a Combat Infantry Badge and promoted to Specialist. While stationed in Iraq, he was ejected from a Humvee when it rolled over. He sustained traumatic injuries and has since been recuperating at the hospital.

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