By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
On May 6, Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, an engineer assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was sitting in the passenger's seat of a vehicle used by combat engineers during route-clearance operations.
Before that day, he probably never guessed that six weeks later he would be in Texas receiving a Purple Heart alongside 19 other men during the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's Purple Heart ceremony at the Fort Hood Catering and Conference Center.
Six weeks ago, Clark and four other soldiers sat in their vehicle – his driver, a gunner, an interpreter and a rear observer – on the side of the road in Mosul, Iraq.
They had been on route-clearance missions that day when someone spotted a roadside bomb.
An explosive ordnance disposal team was notified and sent to the site. The disposal team prepared the bomb for safe detonation.
No one knew that a grenadier watching from a distance waited for the bomb to go off.
A split second after the bomb's detonation, using the noise as a cover, the grenadier fired a rocket at the parked vehicle, hitting the area behind the driver's seat.
The driver received shrapnel in his back. Clark received shrapnel in his left knee.
"I looked down and saw bone, ligaments and tendons," Clark said. "It didn't look good. It didn't feel good."
Within 10 minutes of the hit, soldiers reacted by placing Clark, his driver and the other wounded into the back of a Bradley vehicle. A medic provided what aid he could while the Bradley rushed to a nearby hospital in Mosul. Clark's driver later died at the hospital.
Clark was evacuated from Mosul to a stateside location. Doctors began a series of 13 surgeries on Clark's knee, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg from the knee down.
"The shrapnel took my knee and all the components except the patella," Clark said.
Clark's story is like many others, of soldiers who "did not stand on the sidelines of the war on terror, but committed to it," Brig. Gen. Mark McDonald, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said during the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's Purple Heart ceremony.
McDonald said that the common thread in the stories of the soldiers who receive Purple Hearts is the demand and the challenge on the ground facing the ones deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Purple Heart is a small token of our appreciation for the sacrifice of these men who didn't hope to earn the Purple Heart, but deserve it for the blood they shed and the pain they endured, Maj. David Olsen said during the ceremony.
Six volunteers also were recognized during the ceremony for their sacrifices because "heroes are not just the ones in uniform," McDonald said.
Contact Iuliana Petre at email@example.com or (254) 501-7469.