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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Purple Heart Ceremony Takes Place in Bagram

Aired March 16, 2002 - 07:01   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you first to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where we are going to listen in to this exclusive coverage of the Purple Heart ceremony, where members of the 10th Mountain Division are being honored today.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED CHAPLAIN: ... ceremony (UNINTELLIGIBLE) be reminded of the selfless service and dedication of these award recipients, and all of us soldiers possess, as we proudly serve the United States of America. For in your mighty name we pray. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEWOMAN: The history of the Purple Heart goes back as far as 1782, when Sergeant Eliah Churchill, William Brown, and Daniel Bissell (ph) were awarded the Purple Heart, then called the Badge of Military Merit, from General George Washington, its designer and creator.

These men were the only known recipients of the award during the Revolutionary War. It was reestablished by the president of the United States in 1932.

At present time, the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to any member of the armed forces or any civilian of the United States who has been wounded or killed as a result of hostile enemy actions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the commander, Coalition Joint Task Force Mountain, Major General F.L. Hagenbeck.

MAJ. GEN. F.L. HAGENBECK, ANACONDA COMMANDER: One-eight-seven, if I could have your attention up here for a minute.

The purpose of this ceremony, as you well know, is to honor these great heroes standing here behind me, men that have been wounded after being in direct contact with the enemy in a firefight on the second of March.

But first, I'd just like to talk about all of you, because you were a part of that.

This unit was the first infantry battalion that arrived in Central Asia, arriving on the third of October. There were no headlines, there were no TV cameras rolling. You left in the middle of the night from Fort Drum, New York, and did exactly what our president and our secretary of defense and General Franks wanted you to do, and that was to come initially to Karsikanabad (ph), Uzbekistan, and establish some security for the inflow of follow-on forces that were to come.

In October, some of you that are standing here among us right now were involved in a firefight in Mazar-e Sharif, and showed your bravery that has yet to come out in publications, but which you'll be awarded, and deservedly so, here in the coming weeks.

Just a mere four weeks ago, many of you, when I was walking through your area, told me that you really wanted to get in a fight, that you felt that you'd come over here, and what you trained for for all these months, you hadn't had an opportunity to display and to show that you'd really learned these skills and been able to take this fight to the enemy.

You did that on the second of March. At 06:30 hours in the morning, you air-assaulted into East Ridge. The helicopters landed. And then many of you on the southern (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as you got out of the helicopters, came under withering fire. Some of these soldiers standing behind me are the results of that.

And you were in a firefight for up to 16 hours. The men standing here, and plus some other comrades that have already departed the area that had more serious injuries, showed their mettle and their steel, in the sense that they were wounded in the early morning hours, and we were unable to extract them until early in the evening.

And some of you standing out there helped save their lives through combat lifesaver methods that you'd learned when you trained for before you came into this theater.

So all of you standing here are heroes. You did exactly what the enemy was absolutely certain you could not do. You were characterized by them and many people throughout the world as being soft, self- centered, had no mental or physical toughness, and as soldiers, you couldn't handle -- hold a candle to these tough Taliban war- experienced veterans in this country.

And you proved them all wrong. You took them on on their terrain at 10,000 feet, two miles above sea level. You jumped on them with both feet when you got there. The platoon from Charlie Company and part of the headquarters that came under that fire didn't roll over, didn't give up. They kept fighting for 16 hours. And those of you that were on other landing zones secured your objectives within two hours.

You took the fight to the enemy, were reinforced that night, and latched onto these guys for the next four days. And you killed them in large numbers. You defeated and completely wiped out a sanctuary that they've held in this country for four to five years. They're no longer there. Their leaders are on the run, and they're trying to figure out what happened to them. And what happened to them was that an American infantry battalion with the steel and the fortitude that you displayed took it to them and just destroyed them as a cohesive fighting unit. And all of you can be proud of that.

All of you that are infantrymen and were in that firefight have been awarded and will receive the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the medics that played such a key role in those opening hours, the Combat Field Medical Badge. And there are a number of other awards that your leaders have put you in for that will be awarded to you in the coming days and weeks.

I can't tell you how proud I am of all of you. You've proven how tough the American fighting man is.

To the top.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMAN: Please publish your orders.

Colonel (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEWOMAN: The United States of America, to all who shall see these, presents greetings. This is to certify that the United States of America has awarded the Purple Heart to the following soldiers for wounds received in action on Objective Remington on the second day of March, 2002.

Major James Hall, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Major Thomas Byrne (ph), Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Command Sergeant Major Frank Griffie (ph), Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Captain Timothy Gibbons (ph), Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Captain James Taylor, Third Battalion, Sixth Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Sergeant First Class David Jackson, Charlie Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Private First Class Chad Ryan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Private Jack Horn (ph), Charlie Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause.

At this time, the Chaplain Hoadley (ph), the Coalition Joint Task Force Mountain chaplain, will give the benediction. CHAPLAIN HOADLEY, COALITION JOINT TASK FORCE MOUNTAIN: And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and grant you, and our nation, peace with justice. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEWOMAN: As the awardees depart the stage, we welcome everyone to follow Major General Hagenbeck in honoring...

PHILLIPS: It was March 2 that these Army soldiers were involved in air assault in Operation Anaconda, came under heavy fire, and were involved in a 16-hour firefight to take down the enemy there. Overseas, there at Bagram Air Base, now receiving the Purple Heart for their bravery and commitment to combat. Eight Army soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division now being honored with the ultimate, the ultimate medal awarded for injuries in Operation Anaconda and bravery.

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