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    Purple Heart Recipient Passes 9/11 Memory to Next Generation



    Story by Sgt. Zachary Johnson 

    367th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    On the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, students at Shoals Elementary School in Kanawha County, West Virginia, attended a memorial service as part of a larger nationwide effort known as the 9/11 Flag of Honor Across America Memorial. One hundred schools around the country were chosen to participate in this inaugural event, during which 50 names of those that died during the 9/11 attacks were read aloud by the students. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Larry Salai with the 38th Regional Support Group was among the participants this year.

    He used his opportunity to speak to the students to convey the magnitude of the attacks as his generation's defining moment in their lives, much like the JFK assassination or the Pearl Harbor attack defined generations before. Being 20 years removed, Salai knew he needed to illustrate the importance of that day's events to an audience that has no recollection of them.

    "When you look at how divided we seem today, when you look at that next month and year after 9/11, you didn't have a stranger in the United States," said Salai. "Everybody was your friend. It's hard for them to understand that because they didn't live through it, but they can catch small pieces of that and they can put that into their daily lives."

    Salai's son attends the school, and his reputation as a Purple Heart recipient is well known throughout the school. Salai began helping students at Shoals with 9/11 memorial services in 2018. He teaches the students performing that are performing flag duty how to properly care for and fold the American flag, talks with them about what it's like to be in the military, and imparts on the students the importance of their duty.

    Salai joined the Army Reserve in February of 2001 at 19 years old, and was barely out of Advanced Individual Training when the attacks happened. His first deployment wasn't until March of 2003, whereupon he was sent to Iraq. In 2006, he was deployed to Iraq again, performing convoy security. In May of 2006, Salai's vehicle was struck by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) while he was manning his Humvee's turret. He sustained shrapnel wounds to his face and eyes, but luckily his protective gear took the worst of the blow, and no major long-term damage was sustained. Salai was awarded the Purple Heart from the incident, and enjoys a happy and healthy life in West Virginia today.



    Date Taken: 09.11.2021
    Date Posted: 09.15.2021 21:01
    Story ID: 405026
    Location: WHITEHALL, OH, US 
    Hometown: CHARLESTON, WV, US

    Web Views: 39
    Downloads: 2