WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Purple Heart ceremony, held at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Oct. 29, recognized five Soldiers who earned the nation’s oldest military award honoring service members wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States. Colonel Darryl A. Williams, commander of the Warrior Transition Command, presented the five infantrymen currently assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade at WRAMC, with the Purple Heart medal during the ceremony in Heaton Pavilion’s Joel Auditorium. Williams presented the Purple Heart to:
• Sgt. Raymond Baker, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, injured while conducting an air assault mission when his unit was ambushed near Konar province, Afghanistan;
• Sgt. Antun Redencic, assigned to the 102nd Infantry Regiment, Connecticut National Guard, Hartford, Conn., injured while conducting a dismounted patrol when his unit was ambushed near Lagham province, Afghanistan;
• Spc. Eliezer Aguilar-Baez, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., injured while conducting a dismounted patrol when he was shot in the arm near Kirkuk, Iraq;
• Spc. Eric Kuhlman, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, injured while conducting a mounted patrol when his unit was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade near Paktika province, Afghanistan; and
• Pfc. Joshua Endicott, assigned to the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany, injured while conducting a patrol when his unit was attacked by a suicide bomber near Kandahar, Afghanistan. “I am humbled and proud to be here with you as we recognize the sacrifices made by these outstanding warriors,” Williams said. “Every ceremony is different because the Soldiers are different and they have their own special story.” Having attended more than 10 Purple Heart ceremonies during his career, this was Williams’ first at Walter Reed. It’s even more emblematic for the colonel that he’s here, because these Soldiers in the WRAMC’s Warrior Transition Brigade are now under his care in the WTC. It’s an important reminder that keeps him motivated. “I’m very proud of him,” Stephanie Baker said of her husband, Baker, as did Jennifer Kriesche, of her fiancé Kuhlman. “I don’t think anyone truly expects to get hurt [and receive the Purple Heart],” Kuhlman said. “I’m happy I made it back in one piece; that’s all you can really ask for.” Despite being at Walter Reed because of his injuries, Kuhlman said it’s nerve racking not knowing what his “Battle Buddies” in his unit are doing. Baker had the same sentiment, adding, “They’re the real heroes — the ones still fighting the battles over there [in Afghanistan].” Prior to his assignment and deployment from Fort Campbell, Baker was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. As an Old Guard Soldier, the sergeant rendered final honors for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military. The original Purple Heart, called the Badge of Military Merit, was established by Gen. George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782. The awarding of the badge fell into disuse following the Revolution, and was not used again until after World War I. On the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth, a presidential order revived the medal. The medal was awarded retroactively to 1917 to include World War I veterans who received a wound which necessitated treatment by a medical officer and was received in action with an enemy.