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09-01-05, 06:31 AM #1
Elgin soldier wounded in Iraq receives Purple Heart
Elgin soldier wounded in Iraq receives Purple Heart from Hastert 10 months after his injury
By Christine S. Moyer
BATAVIA — Ten months after a mortar attack struck a tent pitched in the Iraqi desert, injuring Sgt. Greg Russell of Elgin and about 14 other U.S. Marines resting inside, Russell has received his badge of honor, making him the last of his battle buddies to do so.
On Wednesday morning, U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, presented Russell with a Purple Heart — the world's oldest military decoration still in use — during an intimate ceremony with friends and family in his Batavia office.
Also in attendance were Capt. Phillip Kirkman and Staff Sgt. Shawn Doty, both with the 2nd Battalion 24th Marines based in Chicago.
Hastert called the award's roughly 10-month delay a SNAFU — military jargon for Situation Normal, All Fouled Up — and stressed his appreciation for the 22-year-old's service.
"I understand some things fall through the cracks but (we) have to rectify them," Hastert said during the short ceremony.
Russell, a graduate of Naperville Central High School, joined the Marines in 2001.
There he was trained to be a photographer and he chronicled the Marines as they performed training exercises and missions in the United States and throughout South Pacific countries.
In Iraq, Russell was a combat photographer, assigned to document the Marines as they battled insurgents and aided the residents in the war-torn country.
However, his mission was cut short by a mortar blast on Oct. 17, 2004.
Russell said mortars are fired three at a time and it was the third one that struck his tent situated outside Fallujah where the Marines were resting before patrolling one of the country's most violent cities.
Russell received four lacerations — three on his thighs and one on his right forearm.
H spent the next three weeks in hospitals recuperating and fighting an infection in one of his leg wounds.
Although Russell has recovered, his injuries ended his active duty and he returned from Iraq in November 2004.
The 14 soldiers injured in the October attack all received Purple Hearts before Russell, making Wednesday's ceremony unique.
Kirkman, who pinned the Purple Heart on Russell's left lapel over his heart, said the award is typically presented at a soldier's bedside or in military formation in a combat zone.
"Unfortunately, regretfully," Kirkman said, "it slipped through the cracks."
But Russell could not have been more appreciative.
He thanked his friends and family for attending the ceremony and thanked Hastert for his support.
Russell said, "It's a great honor. I never thought I would have gotten something."
The 22-year-old is a student at Elgin Community College where he is studying marketing.
When asked about Wednesday's ceremony, Hastert said he was pleased that Russell was finally honored in the appropriate way.
"We honor every person who serves this country," Hastert said. "It's the highest duty, (the) highest calling this nation can ask you to do."
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