Servicemen Injured in Afghanistan
Receive Purple Hearts at Fort Campbell Ceremony
|5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)|
Tuesday, January 15, 2002 AP Wire
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — One of 15 servicemen who received the Purple Heart on Tuesday for being wounded in Afghanistan said his injury wasn't as important as winning the war on terrorism.
"The overall objective of what has happened, when you look at that, the bigger picture, this isn't quite so bad," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael McElhiney, a Kansas City, Mo., native who lost his arm last month when a U.S. bomb missed its target and landed 100 yards from his team near Kandahar. Three soldiers were killed.
Fourteen US Army Special Forces soldiers and two Air Force Special Operations airmen received the Purple Heart.
They were hurt either in Kandahar or during an uprising by Taliban prisoners at a fortress outside of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert, commander of the Army's 5th Special Forces Group, said U.S. commanders "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."
Lambert said the men had to overcome isolation, a lack of shelter, food and water, and differences of language, culture and tactics between them and the Afghan fighters they were sent in to assist.
"Finally, they had to conquer one last thing, and that was the Taliban -- and they've done it," Lambert said. "These Green Berets to my left here were all wounded in that fight, and today we honor them with medals for valor and with Purple Hearts for their wounds."
The wives of two of three Green Berets killed in Afghanistan attended the ceremony. The three men have been awarded Purple Hearts posthumously.
The airmen honored with Purple Hearts were Staff Sgt. Craig Musselman and Staff Sgt. Alan Yoshita.
"Karzai's guerrillas were not all that well-organized," Amerine said. "He was still trying to build its force. It was difficult at times to tell exactly how many of his guerrillas were with us."
But a victory against Taliban forces at Terin Kote, a town outside Kandahar, "gave him the credibility really to build an army at that point."
"We enabled him to have a relatively quick victory in Terin Kote that I think gave him the credibility he needed for a more speedy victory in the area."
Three men from Amerine's detachment were killed in December by a stray U.S. bomb outside Kandahar.
"When we were struck by the bomb, our immediate concern was taking care of the casualties," Amerine said. "There wasn't a great deal of time to sit and worry about anything else or to feel bad about the incident. We were too worried about keeping our guys alive."
He said the soldiers killed were "closer than family."
"Once the wounded were stabilized, and there wasn't anything else to do, I took a moment to go off, and I had a good long cry," Amerine said.