DVIDS – News – The Hidden Weight of Purple Hearts

This is the oldest active duty military medal in the United States. It is believed that its color was chosen because it represents courage and bravery, but it is a medal no one asked for.
It weighs just over an ounce, but carries the weight and sadness of countless stories.

The stories are different, but they do have one thing in common: The recipient is wounded or killed to earn a Purple Heart.

Be the first sergeant. James Bodek and his troops arrived in Iraq, where the sights and sounds were familiar to him. “Believe it or not, the smell of burning garbage in the distance, there always seemed to be a haze in the air, and the call to prayer was almost welcome,” he recalls. This was not his first deployment, and he said the mood among the soldiers was positive as they looked forward to applying their training to a combat environment.

Bodecker’s unit, 1/506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was dispatched from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to battle outpost Corregidor on the east side of Ramadi. Since the fall of Fallujah in 2004, Ramadi has been the center of the Iraqi insurgency and the most dangerous city for American troops in the country.

While Bodecker says the hardest part of any deployment for him is leaving his family, he has his own minds. “Every time I deploy, my biggest fear is getting burned in a vehicle hit by an IED (improvised explosive device), or getting injured that would paralyze me, but you can’t let that get in the way of the mission.”

Bodek is setting up the perimeter for 360-degree security and relocating one of the Tactical Command Post (TAC) artillery vehicles on February 17, 2006, during a cleanup mission in the Sofia district. Moments later, he fell to the ground in excruciating pain. He initially thought he had stepped on an improvised explosive device, but was hit by a sniper. “Then I realized that if I didn’t leave the space, I would get hit again, but I couldn’t get my leg to move.” The sniper then opened fire again, another soldier, Sergeant. Ferdinand Cuevas went down.

Bodecker was pulled out of the open area by the commanding sergeant. Major Michael Carterton. “I was later told that the Alpha Company was able to locate the sniper, put him and a few others in a box, and take them away,” Bodek said.

The bullet hit his left thigh, severed three-quarters of his sciatic nerve, hit his femur, and sent shards of metal into his abdomen. He was medically evacuated to the United States and spent two months at Fort Campbell Hospital where he underwent several surgeries. On March 20, 2006, he was awarded the Purple Heart.

The pain of the surgery couldn’t compare to the pain he witnessed when he returned to the United States. “Seeing a family comfort a family who has lost a soldier but doesn’t know if or when it will happen to them is harder than deploying,” Bodek said.

Eventually, he returned to Iraq to complete the deployment with his troops. The army is seeing more and more soldiers returning to the field after being wounded. Part is about advances in military medicine and treatment, part commitment to duty, and part personal obligation to those who fail to do so.
Bodecker’s family understands his determination to complete the mission with his team, the historical “courage” of a historically tried-and-true Army unit. “You know the team can be without you, but it’s hard to be without the team,” Bodecker said.

Fast-forward nearly 15 years, and Bodek, now a retired sergeant major and Army Civilian in the U.S. Army’s Central G36 Force Protection Office, finds himself once again working for soldiers serving as battalion commanders on a major deployment in Iraq. The then Lt. Col. Ronald Clark, who was only 100 meters away during the customs clearance mission, is now Lt. Gen. Ronald Clark, the former commander of the U.S. Army. “It’s a pleasure to serve under Lieutenant General Clark for the second time,” Bodek said.

In the end, for Bodecker, the Purple Heart isn’t about him or what he’s been through — it’s the guardian of memories and “what ifs.” We often ask ourselves. For such a small piece of metal, it was heavy for him. “It brought back a torrent of emotion, of the soldiers who didn’t come back – my friends. Maybe we could have done something different.”

Shooting date: 08.05.2022
release date: 08.05.2022 10:51
Story number: 426601
Place: United StatesSouth CarolinaSumter
hometown: Idaho Springs, Inc.
hometown: United StatesSouth CarolinaSumter

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