The commanding general of the Mississippi National Guard paid a special visit to Hunter Army Airfield today, and for a very special occasion. He presented two awards to a soldier injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a purple heart and Mississippi's highest honor.
Spec. Patrick Garrett received his purple heart with mixed emotions. "It's one of the medals you never want, but you receive, you never want to get injured but when you do it's an honor to receive it," he said.
Spec. Garrett was stationed in Iraq and on September 12, his life changed. "We were on our mail call in Fallujah, going to Ramidi, on the way back there was a church service going on and cars all on the side of the road and the Iraqi soldiers detonated a bomb and blew up my five-ton," he told us.
He and the other US soldiers eventually made it across the dangerous road. "Once we got there, I realized I was injured as well," Garrett said. Shrapnel hit him in the arm, jaw and side of his face. On October 3, he returned to the US so he could recover, and is now the recipient of a purple heart.
"That is something that has not been done for Mississippi National Guard soldiers since the Korean War," said Gen. James Lipscomb, who heads the Mississippi National Guard. He flew here to show his respect for Spec. Garrett's actions and give him the magnolia cross, Mississippi's highest honor. "It means an awful lot to recognize a soldier who has been in combat and has suffered wounds in the service of our country," he said.
Spec. Garrett says he wants to return to Iraq to be with the rest of the soldiers, but Army doctors say they aren't sure when and if he will have recovered enough to go back.