"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED. Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
- Army Sgt. J.D. Williams, triple amputee.
Harrison High graduate receives Purple Heart
By GEORGE PLAVEN Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
BUTTE — U.S. Army Sgt. J.D. Williams never really wanted a Purple Heart. Nobody does, he said.
The 23-year-old Harrison High School graduate is missing his right arm and both legs, amputated after he stepped on an improvised explosive device in October in Afghanistan.
Williams received the decoration Nov. 6 from his hospital bed at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. About 12 friends and family attended the ceremony, held the same days as his daughter's first birthday. The Purple Heart is awarded to any military personnel wounded or killed in an action against the enemy.
His wounds now closed and skin grafts removed, Williams told The Montana Standard in a telephone interview that it felt good to be honored, but that he hopes not to see any of his fellow soldiers have to endure the same pain.
"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED," Williams said. "Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
An infantryman with HHC 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, Williams, who grew up in Anaconda, spent more than five months fighting the Taliban and pushing toward an end to the war.
On Oct. 9, at 8:30 a.m., Williams took one wrong step. The blast sent him 20 feet in the air, he said, and left a 6-foot crater in the ground.
When the smoke from the explosion cleared and Williams could finally see again, he rolled over and tried to assess his injuries. He remained conscious the entire time.
Taking long, deep breaths, Williams lay on his back and stared into the sky. He thought about his wife, Ashlee, and almost 1-year-old daughter Kaelyn back home.
"I always thought I was unstoppable," Williams said.
It took 19 minutes to load Williams onto a helicopter and out of danger. Doctors in Germany performed the necessary amputations and sent him back to the United States on Oct. 15.
Williams calls himself a lucky man.
"I really think God has a purpose for me on this planet," he said. "I will find it, whatever it is."
The cards, letters and support keep Williams motivated, his mother said.
"They keep him positive and remind him he is still a hero," she said. "If he did not have the support he has, the excruciating pain might have brought him down."
Donations, cards and letters to Sgt. J.D. Williams and family may be sent to:
Powless Guest House
No. 330, c/o Ashlee Williams
3298 George C. Beach Road
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234
The full article can be read here.