BETHESDA, Md. --
Lance Cpl. Gregory A. Juedes received the Purple Heart from the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos at his hospital bed Feb. 10 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“I’m not giving you the Purple Heart,” Amos said. “I’m awarding you the Purple Heart, Gregory.”
Less than three weeks prior, Juedes, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, observed the local Afghan population from a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle during a mounted patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
After bending over in the turret chamber to change a radio channel, he got up to see that no one was there.
Moments after recognizing the unusual behavior, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the front plates of the turret. As a result of the explosion, Juedes lost half of his right hand, broke his right arm and shrapnel severed the femoral artery in his right leg.
A Navy corpsman administered life-saving treatment while Juedes was transported to the operating room on Camp Leatherneck.
“He saved my life,” said Juedes, a native of Atlanta, Ga. “I’m lucky to have been put in the same vehicle with my corpsman.”
Amos said he strives to approach all Purple Heart recipients to ask them their story.
“Every one has a story, and each one is different,” Amos said. “We don’t set out to get the Purple Heart, but once it’s awarded, it’ll be the most important thing you wear on your uniform.”
For Juedes, the award is even more significant.
“Getting my Purple Heart pinned on to me symbolizes that I’m alive, and that I’m still here — that’s what means the most,” Juedes said.
Juedes knows that everything he once did with ease will take time to adjust. He will have to learn how to write with his left hand, and tasks as simple as getting dressed will become challenges.
“I just don’t have much of a right hand anymore,” Juedes said. “I know I’m different. I know things will be different, but I’m still me.”