By Hailey Persinger
Fort Hood Herald
Six soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division were awarded Purple Hearts on Oct. 27 in recognition of injuries they sustained during their service in Iraq.
The six stood before soldiers from their unit, their friends and their families to receive the medal reserved for those wounded in battle. While serving on June 25 in Baghdad, Capt. Gregg Caravella, Sgt. 1st Class Jams Rundberg, Staff Sgt. Brent Mathis, Cpl. Tyrell Manakaja, Spc. Kevin Garcia and Spc. Johnny Nguyen sustained wounds from two attacks that occurred within minutes of each other.
Brig. Gen. Peter Atkinson, deputy commander for III Corps and Fort Hood, said the awarding of the Purple Heart symbolized something far more than wounds - it symbolizes a spirit of sacrifice and devotion.
"They're examples of loyalty, duty, selflessness and courage," he said. "They've baked in the sweltering heat and humidity and frozen at night ... you have all made a difference in our country and those who hunger for freedom."
He also reminded the recipients and their loved ones in the audience that despite the immense respect in the room for the six recipients, they should also remember the soldiers who have not yet made it home.
"It is on days like this ... we remember that freedom is not free," he said. "We've still got soldiers struggling at great risk against terrorists, tyrants and enemies of our nation."
The six soldiers who returned from battle with wounds not only celebrated conquering their injuries. They celebrated their return home and the work they did while in Baghdad alongside other soldiers in their unit.
Mathis, one of two first responders to the truck where four of his unit members had been attacked, called the award an honor.
"I feel very honored," he said. "I'm very privileged to be home."
Rundberg said that though he is honored by the recognition, it doesn't change all that much for his day-to-day work.
"There's no change in what I do," he said. "To me, it's my job."
Despite their humility, Atkinson told the soldiers in front of their families and friends that there are not enough words to thank them for their sacrifices.
"We cannot give you enough thanks, enough praise or enough from our hearts," he said. "Thank you."