24 May 2010

Medic receives Distinguished Service Cross, military's second-highest award for valor

U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Lollino looks over at his wife Ashley after receiving the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart medals during a ceremony at the start of Army's medical symposium at the Convention Center Monday. Photo: Jerry Lara/Express-News.

On May 17, 2010, Sgt. Joseph L. Lollino was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart by Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the Army.

Lollino retrieved and treated five casualties when his convoy was ambushed June 20, 2008, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan. He was serving with Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

Before that day dawned, then-Cpl. Lollino awoke knowing his column of 30 or so armored vehicles would roll through “ambush alley,” an infamous road sandwiched between two mountain ranges and rocky outcroppings, and dotted by trees — terrain tailor-made for insurgents. What he and other GIs on the mission didn’t know was that they were embarking on a 14-hour journey near the Pakistani border that would test Lollino’s vow to bring all his men home alive.

Part of Lollino’s column had already made it when the first rocket-propelled grenade was fired. Behind the wheel of a Humvee, Lollino drove into ambush alley, began to help the wounded and fired back at the insurgents, dropping two 30-round clips. Three of the wounded soldiers were hit by shrapnel, and a fourth suffered from smoke inhalation.

The enemy fire intensified, and Lollino was hit by shrapnel, too. But he covered one of the wounded with his body. He loaded the wounded in another vehicle as the convoy fought its way out of the ambush.

It was a straight-up gunfight with no close-air support, but the GIs made it to their objective. Lollino, though wounded, stayed with his troops and drove back through ambush alley on the return to their base.

“I just wanted to do my job, fix the guys, make sure no one died. Everybody has a family we all wanted to go back to,” Lollino said when asked what he was thinking.

Then he fell silent.

After he receiving his DSC and Purple Heart he was, according to friends, true to form: His acceptance speech was just two sentences. He thanked his wife, parents and his old unit.

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