News: 1st Marine Division CG presents Purple Heart Medal to 1st Tanks Marine
Story by Cpl. Charles Santamaria
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Maj. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, 1st Marine Division Commanding General, presented a Purple Heart Medal to Cpl. Donald Riley, maintenance manager, 1st Tank Battalion, at the unit’s Tank Ramp, July 2, 2014.
Riley was awarded the medal for events which took place in Shirghazay, Northern Helmand Province, May 15, 2013.
“Leading up to that day we had been receiving some enemy fire that whizzed overhead,” Riley said. “We were also aware that Helmand Province is known for the violence in the area.”
Riley and fellow Marines with D Company, 1st Tanks, were in a combat operations post located in Shirghazay, Northern Helmand Province, when insurgents rammed the side of the COP with a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device. Riley was thrown back by the blast and knocked unconscious before he came to and began helping other Marines transport injured Georgian military to a nearby forward aid station.
“We rushed to their base and began transporting their injured,” Riley said. “I’m extremely proud to have deployed with these men. I’m not a tanker but to see some of the things they’ve done is incredible. It’s an honor to receive this medal, especially from the general.”
Marines aboard that base fought back the insurgents and evacuated service members and Georgian military. Riley suffered a traumatic brain injury from the blast. Maj. Gen. Nicholson speaks to the Marines about being ready at any point to act to a situation.
“If there’s anything the last few months has proven, it’s that the world is still a dangerous place, but every day we know where our first tank battalion is,” Nicholson said. “I’ll tell you here, you have a damn good team and a great battalion. Take care of each other, you did it in Afghanistan, you did it in Iraq, and you’ll do it in the future on that next battlefield that we may not even have identified yet. You are the quick reaction force for this nation and when that ‘bell’ goes off we will answer that bell.”
The battalion sergeant major expressed pride in not only the recipient but the battalion as a whole.
“I’m happy that he knew the things he needed to do to react to that situation,” said Sgt. Maj. Brian A. Priester, 1st Tank Battalion sergeant major. “We train like we fight until uncertainty happens and we react accordingly. It’s validation of all the hard work these Marines do all the time, so I’m proud of all the Marines that were there to respond when the time came to be challenged.”