View Full Version : Marine, soldier receive Purple Heart, visit from Bush

04-13-03, 06:40 AM
April 12, 2003

Marine, soldier receive Purple Heart, visit from Bush

Associated Press

Marine 1st Lt. Jim Hutchinson heard the explosion and felt his body thrown through the air in a storm of machine gun fire.
Dazed, the 25-year-old Camp Lejeune platoon commander from Rumson, N.J., remembers checking his body.

“When I realized I had all my body parts, I thought, ‘Thank God,”’ he said, reliving the experience by phone from a hospital bed in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Hutchinson and Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Douglas of Fort Bragg, N.C., received Purple Heart medals for their war wounds Friday and a visit from President Bush.

Bush had private visits Friday with about 75 wounded U.S. troops and their families at the National Naval Medical Center and Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Bush awarded 10 Purple Hearts, the military’s honor for those wounded in combat.

Douglas, assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Braggsaid through his wife he did not feel up to talking about the ordeal, which was too fresh in his mind.

Douglas survived an ambush in southern Afghanistan that killed a fellow Fort Bragg special forces soldier and an airman, and also wounded three Afghan soldiers.

Four people on two motorcycles ambushed a convoy of fewer than 20 people on March 29. The attackers killed Army Special Forces Sgt. Orlando Morales, 33, and Staff Sgt. Jacob L. Frazier, 24, a member of the Illinois Air National Guard from St. Charles, Ill.

Hutchinson was wounded on the night of March 27 as he and others from Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion were destroying crates filled with rocket-propelled grenades on the outskirts of Nasiriyah, Iraq.

A grenade or mortar landed near the Humvee that Hutchinson was using for cover.

“Next thing I know, I’m flying through the air. I didn’t now I had the wounds at first. We were all trying to get out of there as quickly as possible,” Hutchinson said.

A piece of shrapnel was lodged between his index and middle knuckles. He ripped the foreign object out of his hand, chipping a bone and ultimately fracturing the hand. Other metal shards tore through his legs.

In all, about 30 Marines with his platoon were wounded. No one was killed.

Hutchinson doesn’t remember being in an Army hospital in Kuwait City. He was in shock for nearly two days and underwent surgery. He was taken to another hospital in Germany, where he had more surgery, then flown to the hospital in Maryland.

He was to spend the next week at the naval hospital, then take time off and spend time with his family in New Jersey, where he’ll continue to undergo physical therapy. Doctors say he’ll recover completely.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press