Purple Heart Medal
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey C. Lambert
Special Forces Command (Airborne)
By Sean E. Cobb, Kaiserslautern bureau Stars and Stripes European edition, Sunday, December 2, 2001
Special Forces wounded in Afghanistan
Prison uprising receive Purple Heart
LANDSTUHL, GERMANY — U.S. service members wounded recently in Afghanistan fighting received the Purple Heart medal in a ceremony Saturday.
From the Army Special Forces Command, Capt. "Kevin," Capt. "Paul," 1st Sgt. "David" and Sgt. 1st Class "Paul" received their medals from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey C. Lambert, Army Special Forces Command Commander. The soldiers were identified by their first names only for security reasons.
The service members were wounded in fighting Nov. 26 while helping the Northern Alliance put down an uprising by Taliban prisoners at a fortress outside of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.
"We knew the Northern Alliance was in trouble, so we went to help them out," Capt. Paul said.
The five soldiers were part of a larger force that went into the prison fortress to call in airstrikes on rioting Taliban prisoners. After determining the location of Taliban in the area, the group called in an airstrike.
After seeing some strikes hit the target, "Everything went brown and I went flying through the air," Paul said.
The soldiers could not see or hear because of the explosion, and were worried the Taliban would notice they were in trouble and overrun their position.
So the soldiers, assisted by Northern Alliance fighters, gathered up their wounded and pulled back. They were eventually evacuated by helicopter to a rear area and then to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Besides the obvious dangers of being shot at and errant missiles exploding around you, the fighting in Afghanistan has some unique challenges, Staff Sgt. Mike said.
Getting around the country is difficult, and sometimes the U.S. forces on the ground resort to riding on horses and donkeys. "That was a surprise to me," he said.
It is also hard to tell the difference between the Northern Alliance fighters and the Taliban fighters, so it keeps the U.S. forces on edge, Mike said. "But [Northern Alliance] leaders took care of us and kept us safe," he added.
Fighting an extremist enemy is also making the fighting difficult, Capt. Paul said. The Taliban fighters they have encountered are hard-core, dedicated to their cause and highly motivated.
It is hard to tell sometimes if Taliban fighters are wanting to give up — or to just get close enough to use a suicide grenade hidden in their robes, he said.
The service members were asked if after all the fighting and being wounded, if they were glad to be back in civilization and on their way home.
Not really, Sgt. Paul said. The soldiers feel they should go back to where they belong — with their units.