MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Twelve Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, were awarded the Purple Heart at the base theater Oct. 5.
The awarded Marines, who recently returned from a seven-month deployment in Iraq, received America’s oldest award for wounds sustained during combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The decorated OIF veterans are as follows:
• Staff Sgt. Timothy A. Greene, Greer, S.C., Weapons Company
• Sgt. Scott J. Weibling, Lexington, Mo., Weapons Company
• Lance Cpl. Joshua S. Davis, Vail, Ariz., Weapons Company
• Lance Cpl. Peter J. Fish, Mosinee, Wis., Weapons Company
• Lance Cpl. Noel Reina, Bolingbrook, Ill., Weapons Company
• Lance Cpl. Steven R. Sanchez, Schertz, Texas, Weapons Company
• Lance Cpl. William D. Hyden, Little Rock, Ark., Company A
• Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Mansfield, Mesquite, Texas, Company A
• Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. Suppon, Peoria, Ariz., Company A
• Cpl. Nathaniel R. Isbell, Grape Vine, Texas, Company C
• Lance Cpl. Jason W. Greeley II, Chandler, Ariz., Company C
• Lance Cpl. Joel B. Mendham, White Lake, Mich., Company C.
Col. Nicholas F. Marano, 1/7’s battalion commander, addressed to all attendees he was pleased to award the first batch of combat decorations to the battalion.
"We still have a number of awards to be giving real soon," said Marano. "I am glad that I can start awarding the Marines now. I want to see the Marines wear their awards they earned at the [Marine Corps] ball. I want to see those combat ‘V’s."
According to a Web site, the Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he warrants the award upon being wounded or killed in a manner meeting specific criteria.
More so, the awarding of the Purple Heart is historical and a sacrifice that’s been made by Marines for hundreds of years, said Sgt. Maj. George W. Young, 1/7’s battalion sergeant major.
"We honor our Marines by publicly awarding them for their sacrifices," said Young. "These Marines were specifically awarded for wounds as a direct result of enemy hostile actions."
Current active duty personnel are awarded the Purple Heart upon recognition from their chain of command, stating the injury received and the action in which the service member was wounded. The awarding authority for the Purple Heart is normally at the division level. While the award of the Purple Heart is considered automatic for all wounds received in combat, each award presentation must still be reviewed to ensure the wounds received were a result of enemy action.
For example, Greeley, a rifleman with Suicide Charley, received the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained July 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated several feet away from him, sending shrapnel into his neck.
At the time, Greeley was conducting an insertion operation, dropping off a group of Marines to patrol a certain part of their area of operations. He was traveling in a convoy on a main supply route. He was the machine-gunner riding in the turret of a humvee.
The convoy passed a hole in the road created by a previous IED blast. Just as Greeley’s humvee neared the hole, a new IED detonated.
Greeley had his back turned to the blast, causing him to drop halfway into the turret as a reaction, he said.
The convoy halted as the Marines scanned the area for a possible ambush.
"Everything seemed calm after the blast and there was no sight of the enemy, so we pushed forward," said Greeley.
The convoy halted at an intersection farther down the road to assess the casualties. Fortunately there were no serious casualties except for Greeley and a passenger in his vehicle.
"I didn’t notice I was hit until I felt blood running down my neck," he said. "My squad leader jumped in the turret to replace me, and we headed back to base."
After being pinned on the 224-year-old award established by Gen. George Washington in Newburgh, N.Y., Greeley expressed his pride for such decoration.
"It’s an honor," he said. "I’m going to wear this with pride. My wife’s grandfather was awarded one from fighting in WWII. It will be nice to tell him that I got one too. I can be just as proud."
Greeley’s fellow battalion member, Reina, a mortarman with Weapons Company, also shared the same pride for the award.
Just like Greeley, Reina received shrapnel wounds from an IED blast eight days later.
"It’s honorable," said Reina. "It feels great to get pinned-on the Purple Heart. It shows that everyone cares and understands the sacrifices we’ve gone through. I am proud to say I am a Purple Heart recipient."