14 November 2007

Seven 3/2 Stryker Soldiers Awarded Silver Star

May 2007:

Dear MaryAnn,

I just mailed two blankets this morning.

I also want you to know that the Stryker that got hit last Sunday was Casey's Stryker. The SGT that was killed saved Casey's life [back in March].

Casey told us that when he and two other soldiers were hit that Sgt. Harkins stood over them and returned fire all the time yelling for help for the fallen soldiers.

A few weeks ago, Sgt. Harkins told family members he had something to show them proving their prayers were being heard: the bullet which struck his helmet during the attack in which Spc. Casey Turner and two others were wounded but left him unhurt.

Spc. Josh Holubz is another of those soldiers who credits Harkins with saving his life:

“I came pretty close to dying that night,” he said. “I actually thought I was going to die that night.”

Before going out on that mission in March, Harkins handed out gauze pads to his fire team, including Holubz. That gauze was used to stop the bleeding when a terrorist bullet ripped through his shoulder and out through his chest.

"I never had a chance to talk to him or thank him for that."

On another occaison Harkins had gone into the kill zone and pulled one of his soldiers to safety, heroism for which he was slated to receive a Bronze Star.

Sgt. Jason Harkins always wanted to follow his father's footsteps into the Army since he was a little boy stalking the yard with a toy rifle. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1998 and went active duty in March 2003.

Harkins was a veteran of a previous deployment to Iraq with the brigade from 2003-2004. Between deployments he graduated from jump school and got married.

Last Thursday, Sgt Harkins and six other soldiers were decorated for their actions in Baquoba between March and June.

Staff Sgt. Shawn McGuire and other soldiers from his engineer platoon were in the midst of recovering a Stryker armored vehicle damaged by in a bombing in narrow alley in Baquoba, Iraq, when all hell broke loose.

Two rocket-propelled grenades sliced through the air and exploded, wounding five soldiers. Gunfire erupted every which way.

The platoon sergeant went down from his injuries. But despite being shot twice, and with shrapnel embedded in his neck and his right soldier, McGuire, 33, took control.

"I was just trying to get people out of there," he said of the March 16 firefight.

The heroism earned him the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest decoration for combat valor.

McGuire was one of seven soldiers assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who received the award after returning from the Iraq war.

One soldier received the honor on behalf of Sgt. Jason Harkins, who was killed weeks after his heroic action.


Staff Sgt. Shawn McGuire

After his platoon sergeant was wounded in combat March 16 in Baqouba, Iraq,McGuire took over his responsibilities. Despite his own injuries, he organized a counterattack against the insurgents and coordinated the evacuation of the wounded, actions the Army says saved the lives of several soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Mark Grover

Grover braved gunfire to rescue four soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle on April 5. He also directed firefighting efforts and prepared his men for an enemy counterattack.

Staff Sgt. Jason Harkins

Harkins and several soldiers were wounded during an ambush March 17. Despite his injuries, he organized a counterattack and evacuated three wounded soldiers to safety. Harkins was one of six soldiers killed May 6 when their Stryker vehicle was destroyed by a bomb in Baqouba.

Spc. Curtis Lundgren

When Lundgren¹s squad was ambushed June 9, he braved enemy fire to rescue a wounded comrade. Shot in the back, he was still able to evacuate the wounded soldier to safety, using his body as a shield to prevent further wounds.

Spc. Gildardo Cebreros

On March 24, after an improvised explosive device struck his Stryker vehicle and wounded seven soldiers, Cebreros evacuated casualties three times while under intense gunfire.

Sgt. Steven Peters and Staff Sgt. David Plush

Both soldiers were recognized for their efforts to save a driver who was pinned under the wreckage of a Stryker vehicle. Plush was recognized for personally rescuing the pinned soldier while in the line of enemy fire. Peters entered the burning wreckage to rescue survivors and the driver.

Back to May 2007:

Casey had asked us to continue to send boxes to his unit [after he was wounded in March] and we addressed the last box to Sgt. Harkins and he returned the nicest letter to us so we feel really close to him.

He will always be in my prayers for the deceased.

His widow, Emily Harkins, said the words of Psalm 144:1-2 described her late husband well:

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me."

She said he loved being a Soldier.

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