DoMaD presents Purple Heart, ARCOM with ‘V’ Device to Reserve engineer
DoMaD Public Affairs:
The command and staff of the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment presented a Reserve Soldier from the 689th Engineer Company based in Orlando, Fla., with the Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device for valor Aug. 23.
Spc. Anthony M. Leyva was presented the decorations from Col. Eric T. Judkins, DoMaD director, during a small ceremony.
“Honor number one is for being in a place up close with the enemy and for sacrifice,” said Judkins. “The ARCOM with a ‘V’ Device is for his presence of mind and ability to operate under fire while wounded, dealing with other Soldiers while they’re wounded and a determined enemy, doing their best to kill you and your buddies and ruin the mission.”
Judkins mentioned a popular analogy of a Soldier writing a check for the value up to and including his life and how Leyva was very close to cashing in that check. He continued, “I am honored to have the opportunity to present these awards.”
Capt. Kevin P. Lasagna, 689th Engineer Co. commander, spoke of the bravery of the Soldiers on the dismounted team.
“It is the most dangerous job in the world,” said Lasagna. “I’ve gone out with those guys on those dismounted missions. I know firsthand the danger they’re in every single time.”
He described how engineer units conducting route-clearance missions have the most heavily armored vehicles in the Army, and the dismounted team walks in front of those vehicles looking for improvised explosive devices with only their body armor and weapons.
“I am in awe of the courage and valor these guys have every single day,” the commander continued. “I wish I could give them an award for every time we left the wire.”
When Lasagna visited Leyva during his recovery, he said Leyva did not show any concern for himself, but instead for his fellow Soldiers and their interpreter. Leyva grilled the commander on each and every person, as he was concerned for their well-being.
Leyva, a combat engineer, conducted many dismounted route-clearance missions during his deployment in Afghanistan. During one mission May 13, 2012, his platoon came upon command wire, which is used to trigger IEDs. The platoon did a secondary sweep and found an IED so far underground that they did not have the capabilities to retrieve it. They called in an explosive ordnance disposal team, and then cleared and secured the area.
The security team waited for the EOD team near a school where both adults and children were present. As the security team waited for EOD, some of the children on the street started throwing rocks at them from the direction of the school. A number of locals came to the aid of Leyva’s platoon and chased the children away. The platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dale Race, talked and joked with the civilians for about 20 minutes. The locals soon returned to their homes; however, within 10 minutes, another object flew toward the platoon. Thinking the object was another rock, members of the platoon did not notice the object at first. But soon Leyva focused on the object – which had landed 5 feet from him – and upon recognizing it, the grenade exploded.
After the explosion, the platoon received small-arms fire from fully automatic weapons. Sgt. Mortin Pegues, Leyva’s squad leader, and Leyva hid in a semi-constructed building. Leyva ripped his right sleeve to view the wound where he had been hit by shrapnel. Pegues asked Leyva if he was OK. Pegues then noticed blood dripping from his own head. Seeing Pegues’ wound, Leyva ripped his sleeve off and placed it over Pegues’ wound. Leyva found Pegues’ combat gauze and applied that as well.
While Pegues applied pressure to his injury, Leyva lifted his head to monitor the situation. He and Pegues heard a motorcycle drive away, but did not see the fleeing enemy. At that moment, Race appeared, ran up and fired at an enemy, who was trying to flank their position.
“Thank God for that.” Leyva said. “It could have been a bad day.”
Pegues was already on the radio calling for the armored vehicles and medics. They were all aware another grenade could be thrown. Fortunately, the platoon was picked up and all involved made it out with their lives.
Leyva had shrapnel still embedded in him until the day before the ceremony. Mobilized Reservists and National Guard Soldiers are not released until they receive a clean bill of health, or if the Soldier refuses care, which is greatly discouraged. Leyva wanted to go home before having all the shrapnel removed, but decided to stay and heed the advice of his command.
The medical team from William Beaumont Army Medical Center, who supports the demobilizing Soldiers, worked diligently to ensure he received the care he was entitled to so he could return to his family. Leyva, 23 and from Florida, plans to go to school for auto mechanics once he returns home. He said he is also excited to get back and ride the new motorcycle he purchased on mid-tour leave.
Leyva said he was appreciative of the ceremony in his honor: “Thank you so very much for being there. I was so very happy to be there to see all these people and have an audience and see all the appreciation everyone had for me.”
Short URL: http://fbmonitor.com/?p=15240