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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Military Awards Ceremony for Service in Afghanistan

Aired January 15, 2002 - 11:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now want to take you live back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where the ceremony is getting underway. A number of medals, including Purple Hearts, will be handed out to some very brave soldiers who were wounded and did service in Afghanistan. These are the first medals to be passed out for service in Afghanistan.

We have our Barbara Starr watching this ceremony with us and -- feel a little funny talking over the Pledge of Allegiance there -- I mean the "Star Spangled Banner."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and listen in a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The official party for today's ceremony are General Eric K. Shinshecki (ph), Chief of Staff of the United States Army; General Charles Holland (ph), Commander in Chief, United States Special Operations Command; Major General Geoffrey C. Lambert,...

KAGAN: All right, while they do the introductions, let's bring Barbara Starr and help us understand and appreciate these incredible medals that will be passed out here in the next hour.

Barbara, first of all, Purple Heart. I think a lot of Americans are familiar with the Purple Heart, but let us know what it takes in order to earn this award.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Purple Heart is one of the highest combat decorations awarded by the U.S. military. It's awarded for injury sustained during combat, and there are possibly hundreds of living Purple Heart awardees. They date from World War II, Korea War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, all of that. And these are men who have really exhibited heroism in combat and suffered some very serious wounds.

You know this conflict, so far there have been some deaths but it's been relatively -- there have been relatively few compared to the wars the U.S. has been involved in in the past. So this is really a special occasion for the Army and the Air Force today, giving these awards to the men who suffered in these two incidents, one in southern Afghanistan near Kandahar when there was a friendly fire incident...

KAGAN: Barbara, let me just... STARR: ... and one...

KAGAN: ... jump in here because we do want to go ahead and listen to the ceremony.

STARR: Sure.

KAGAN: We'll check back in with you after we listen in.

MAJOR GENERAL GEOFFREY LAMBERT, U.S. ARMY: We all saw what happened to the nation. And General Tommy Franks headquarters down in Semp Com (ph) in Tampa started writing the plans to do something about it. And those plans as they developed called for some men. And they wanted some men to go behind the enemy lines, find disparate groupings of Afghani warriors, move into the area surrounded by the enemy, build these forces up and meld them into a cohesive fighting force that would sweep the Taliban out of power. That task fell to the United States Army. And that task then fell to the 5th Special Forces Group, the wearer of the green beret.

The men raised their hands and they went in. And they had to conquer isolation because there were no contiguous units or roads or lifelines. They had to conquer the lack of shelter, adequate food and water and medical support. They had to conquer the differences in language and culture and religion. And they had to conquer the centuries of difference in the tactics, weaponry and communications that their Afghani warriors had practiced throughout the 23 years of this war. And finally, they had to conquer one last thing and that was the Taliban, and they've done it.

These Green Berets to my left here were all wounded in that fight. And today they -- we honor them with medals for valor and with their Purple Hearts for their wounds.

It's especially fitting that we have General Shinshecki and General Holland here today to do this for General Shinshecki has sat in that same chair twice in his wars as a young man having been wounded on two occasions.

What's wonderful today is the families are here next to them and these men are -- have rejoined the 5th Special Forces Group community. And these Army wives are something very special. These families are so resilient. In December I came here to go to the Christmas parties for the children. And I was concerned that we weren't doing enough for them. And as I went to the distinct unit parties around the base, I never heard a single complaint, I just saw patriotism and total support. And finally at the end of the evening, two wives came up and asked me to do them a favor, and that was to send their husbands to Afghanistan as soon as possible because they could no longer stand to see them tormented having been left behind. These families are truly priceless.

Let me -- let me introduce a few just for a second here. R.J. Rakes (ph), are you here? Just step up one step here for me, would you please. I don't want to leave the mike. Thanks a lot. Please sit down. His mother is -- I don't want to embarrass him -- his mother is a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles right here, second brigade. And while she's doing that duty, her husband is fighting in Afghanistan, and he sits among the wounded here. And because of this ceremony, he didn't want to skip school because the value in the family is you will never miss a day of school your entire life so he wasn't going to come here. And last night the principal called R.J. and said this one doesn't count.

(LAUGHTER)

LAMBERT: And so welcome. I'll shake your hand later. You're quite a young man.

And there's also two members of the Army Special Forces family here that are lifetime members. And they've come back to join us today, and they're always welcome, and they'll be welcomed forever. I'd like to recognize them as well, and that's Me (ph) Davis and Shawna Crosser (ph)

(APPLAUSE)

LAMBERT: And these two wives lost their husbands in the -- in the fight north of Kandahar last month. So thanks for coming back. You'll always be part of the team.

Yesterday, I was asked a question by a reporter here, and the question was where does the Army find these soldiers? And I said we find them across the spectrum of American citizenry. And then he asked the second part of the question and then made an allusion to the last presidential election and said well where do you find most of them, is it in red or blue America? And I said it's really simple, we find these great men, these men that will be our heroes forever, in red, white and blue America, one beautiful, singular place.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, General Shinshecki, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, will present the valorous awards and those for service in combat. Please hold your applause until the last Bronze Star medal is awarded.

The United States of America, to all who shall see these presents, greetings. This is to certify that the President of the United States of America, authorized by executive order 24 August 1962, has awarded the Bronze Star medal with veto vice (ph) to the following special forces soldiers. The orders are signed Paul T. Miklosheck (ph), Lieutenant General, United States Army, Coalition Forces Land Component Command and the Honorable Mr. Thomas White.

Captain Jason L. Amarine (ph). To Captain Jason L. Amarine, ODA574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for heroism, from 14 November, to 5 December 2001, as detachment commander while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom. Sergeant 1st Class Michael S. McAlleney (ph). To Sergeant 1st class Michael S. McAlleney, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for heroism, from 14 November to 5 December 2001, as weapons sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sergeant 1st Class Christopher A. Pickett (ph). To Sergeant 1st Class Christopher A. Pickett, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for heroism, on 5 December 2001, as medical sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Wesley A. McGur (ph). To Staff Sergeant Wesley A. McGur, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for heroism, from 14 November to 5 December 2001, as communication sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, General Shinshecki, Chief of Staff of the -- of the United States Army, will present the awards for service in combat.

The United States of America, to all who shall see these presents, greetings. This is to certify that the President of the United States of America, authorized by executive order 24 August 1962, has awarded the Bronze Star medal to the following special forces soldiers. The orders are signed Paul T. Miklosheck (ph), Lieutenant General, United States Army, Coalition Forces Land Component Command and the Honorable Mr. Thomas White.

Captain Kevin C. Leahy (ph). To Captain Kevin C. Leahy, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 12 November to 26 November 2001, while suppressing a revolt by al Qaeda and Taliban forces at the fortress of Qalla Changi (ph) in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Captain Paul R. Siverson (ph). To Captain Paul R. Siverson, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 12 November to 26 November 2001, while suppressing a revolt by al Qaeda and Taliban forces at the fortress of Qalla Changi (ph) in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

1st Sergeant David B. Betts (ph). The Bronze Star medal, first oak leaf cluster, is awarded to 1st Sergeant David B. Betts, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 12 November to 26 November 2001, while suppressing a revolt by al Qaeda and Taliban forces at the fortress of Qalla Changi (ph) in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom. Sergeant 1st Class Paul Beck (ph). Sergeant 1st Class Paul Beck, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 12 November to 26 November 2001, while suppressing a revolt by al Qaeda and Taliban forces at the fortress of Qalla Changi (ph) in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sergeant 1st Class Ronnie L. Rakes (ph). Sergeant 1st Class Ronnie L. Rakes, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 14 November to 5 December 2001, as senior weapons sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sergeant 1st Class Von A. Bernston (ph). Sergeant 1st Class Von A. Berston, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 18 November to 5 December 2001, as senior engineer sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Bradley J. Fowers (ph). Staff Sergeant Bradley J. Fowers, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for meritorious service in combat from 18 November to 5 December 2001, as weapons sergeant while conducting direct combat actions in the face of overwhelming odds and direct hostile aggression in defeating Taliban forces at Kandahar, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time General Holland, Commander in Chief, United States Special Operations Command, will present the Purple Hearts. Please hold your applause until the last Purple Heart is awarded.

The United States of America, to all who shall see these presents, greetings. As awarded the Purple Heart, established by General George Washington at Newburgh, New York, August 7, 1782, to the following special forces soldiers for wounds received in action. The orders are signed Paul T. Miklosheck (ph), Lieutenant General, United States Army, Coalition Forces Land Component Command and the Honorable Mr. Thomas White.

Captain Jason Amarine. The Purple Heart is awarded to Captain Jason Amarine, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sergeant 1st Class David Kennedy. The Purple Heart is awarded to Sergeant 1st Class David Kennedy, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan. Sergeant 1st Class Michael S. McAlleney. The Purple Heart is awarded to Sergeant 1st Class Michael S. McAlleney, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sergeant 1st Class Ronnie Rakes. The Purple Heart is awarded to Sergeant 1st Class Ronnie Rakes, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Wesley McGur. The Purple Heart is awarded to Staff Sergeant Wesley McGur, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sergeant 1st Class Von Bernston. The Purple Heart is awarded to Sergeant 1st Class Von Bernston, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 4 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Bradley Fowers. The Purple Heart is awarded to Staff Sergeant Bradley Fowers, ODA 574, Third Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Captain John Leopold (ph). The Purple Heart is awarded to Captain John Leopold, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Terry Reed (ph). The Purple Heart is awarded to Chief Warrant Officer Two Terry Reed, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Pickett. The Purple Heart is awarded to Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Pickett, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Christopher H. Fafie (ph). The Purple Heart is awarded to Staff Sergeant Christopher H. Fafie, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Specialist John Menafee (ph). The Purple Heart is awarded to Specialist John Menafee, Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Craig Muscleman (ph). The Purple Heart is awarded to Staff Sergeant Craig Muscleman, Detachment Two, 10th Combat Weather Squadron, United States Air Force, for wounds received in action on 5 December 2001 at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The following soldiers were previously recognized at a Purple Heart ceremony in Landstuhl Region Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, for wounds received in action on 26 November 2001 in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. They are being recognized today in front of their families and loved ones.

Captain Levin Leahy.

Captain Paul Siverson.

First Sergeant David Betts.

Sergeant 1st Class Paul Beck.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the playing of the "Ballad of the Green Beret," the Air Force song, and the Army song, and remain standing for the departure of the official party.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

KAGAN: We've been watching a very moving ceremony from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. If watching this didn't make you proud to be an American and proud of the Americans who are serving overseas, then I don't think anything is going to. We witnessed as 15 soldiers were presented with the Purple Heart. Also Bronze and Silver Stars were passed out to these soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These were men that were injured at Mazar-e-Sharif and also in Kandahar during Operation Enduring Freedom. The first medals passed out in that campaign. Certainly much more to come, but that was the first ceremony. Wanted to show you and bring you it in its entirety from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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