Ft. Stewart Soldiers Honored

It was a big night for some Fort Stewart soldiers, as members of the First Battalion, Third Air Defense Artillery were honored for their work in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They're attached to the Third Infantry Division and were on the front lines in some of the battles.

Six hundred fifty soldiers make up the unit, and yesterday, the Army decorated 85 of them. Soldiers received everything from purple hearts to bronze stars, commendation medals and combat medic badges. They also honored Capt. Charles Branson and SFC Matthew Gruidl with silver stars. The last time a soldier in the unit won the silver star was in the Korean War.

"During one of the bridge seizures at Alkiffel, my platoon leader, some Iraqi soldiers jumped on his track," said SFC Gruidl. "He wasn't able to defend himself at that time and I was able to engage and destroy the enemy, in turn saving his life."

Fortunately, all 650 soldiers returned home safely from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Reported by: Holly Bristow, hbristow@wtoc.com