FORT HOOD, Texas — The 1st Cavalry Division honored six wounded Soldiers and 31 volunteers during the division's monthly Purple Heart and Volunteer of the Month recognition ceremony, Oct. 27 at the Phantom Warrior Club.
Col. Jeffery Sauer, 1st Cavalry Division Rear Detachment commander, led the ceremony which began with an invocation from Chaplain (Col.) Jack Byas, 1st Cav. Div. chaplain; other ceremony participants included III Corps and Fort Hood Deputy Commanding General, Canadian Brig. Gen. Peter Atkinson, the 1st Cav. Div. Band and the division honor guard.
Giving families comfort and a place to gather information are just a few things the 1st Cavalry Division's Family Readiness Group volunteers do to help Soldiers and families each month, said Sauer.
"It is my pleasure and my privilege to be able to do one of the best things we do every month, and that is the volunteer recognition ceremony for our Volunteers of the Month, in the best of our Cav. tradition," Sauer said. "We are particularly awed to have with us six of our fine troopers that were wounded in action in Iraq in June."
In his remarks Sauer, said the timing of the ceremony held the Tuesday following 'Make a Different Day' -- a day in which friends and Families were encouraged to make a difference in their local communities had not escaped his notice.
"When I look at you [the volunteers] I think how much of a difference you make every day; every week, every month, every year, deployment and non-deployment with what you do for our families, our Soldiers, our communities and everyone here at the 'Great Place,'" Sauer said. "You represent all the families this month of Fort Hood who do something every day for our Soldiers. Almost the epitome of the golden rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. You do that every day."
Sauer went on to say "the greatest thing with volunteerism is the characteristic of self decision, because nothing occurs without that individual [each of you] making that first initial decision that says today, after I wake up, I am going to do something to help someone and make someone better."
The Purple Heart followed the presentation of the VOMs. Sauer, Atkinson and Jack Palmer, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, presented Purple Hearts and Purple Heart association pins to the six Soldiers wounded in Iraq.
As Adkinson and Palmer pinned the Purple Heart medals and pins on the uniforms of Capt. Gregg Caravella, Sgt. 1st Class James Rundberg, Staff Sgt. Brent Mathis, Cpl. Tyrell Manakaja, Spc. Kevin Garcia and Spc. Johnny Nguyen, they personally thanked each Soldier for their sacrifice and service to the nation.
Assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Rundberg, from New Baltimore, New York, Manakaja, from Peach Spring, Ariz., Garcia, from Inverness, Fla., and Nguyen, from San Jose, Calif., were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action on June 25, when their humvee ran over an improvised explosive device, less than a mile outside their base.
Caravella, from Dallas, and Mathis, from Warner Robins, Ga., assigned to C. Company, 1-5 Cav., were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action on June 25, as first responders to command sergeant major's personal security detachment humvee IED attack mentioned above, their vehicle was struck by a second IED.
After the Purple Heart presentations Atkins said it was an honor to present Purple Hearts to the Soldiers, and praised them for their heroism and selfless sacrifices.
"We remember on these occasions that freedom is not free. Each generation bears a cost in order to guarantee those liberties that American depends upon, Atkins said. "Each one [Soldier] here today exemplifies our Warrior Ethos, fundamental values of our Army; their examples of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and professional courage. They should make us all very proud. Thank you for your service. You are truly 'Black Jacks'"
Proud of all the Volunteers and Purple Heart awardees Andrea Wathogoma, from Clarkdale, Ariz., had never been to any kind of military award ceremony, but like all in attendance she was there to show support for the awardees and a little extra support for Purple Heart awardees, Manakaja.
"I cried and had a lump in my throat during the Purple Heart presentation," Wathogoma said. "As I thought about what he has been through...what all of them [Soldiers] have been through, their sacrifice for America is something we all can take pride in."
The Purple Heart is the U.S. military's oldest and one of its most distinguished decorations. It is awarded to service members wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed force.