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Amtrackers decorated with Purple Hearts

22 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

Five Marines with Company B, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, received Purple Heart Medals July 22, for injuries received while patrolling one of Iraq's deadliest streets in Husaybah.

Decorated were: Sgt. Shawn R. Conti, 24, a crewman from Pittsburgh, Lance Cpl. Lucio C. Vega, 20, crewman from Wenatchee, Wash., Lance Cpl. Adam J. Pisio, 20, a crewman from Katy, Texas, Lance Cpl. Sean K. Webster, 19, a crewman from Charlottesville, Va., and Pfc. Richard Guadalupe, communication technician from Union City, Kan.

The Marines were all wounded after coming under attack during a patrol through Husaybah's Market Street.  The battle started when the Marines were fired upon by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Husaybah is a city near the border of Syria, which has been the frequent site of improvised-explosive device and small-arms attacks.  The Marines sustained mostly superficial wounds to their faces.  All of the Marines involved were back in action the next day.

"We were headed down Market Street," Conti explained.  "Then we heard a large boom hit our vehicle.  At first we thought it was an IED, but later learned it was an RPG."

The Marines explained that their reactions were rooted in their training.  They pulled their fellow Marines to safety and got out of the kill zone.

"I just kept thinking we got to get out of here," Vega said.  "I didn't even realize I was injured until it was all over."

Crews are challenged to maneuver and maintain a safe distance from the local populace in urban areas.  Streets are small.  Corners are sharp and danger can lurk overhead or around the next corner.

"It's hard to get around the streets," Pisio explained.  "We didn't expect to be operating with our tracks in an urban environment."

Still, he said that lumbering assault vehicles are called in to support infantry for firepower and protection. 

"Often the grunts need our armor and I'm more than happy to provide it," Pisio said.

After receiving the medals the Marines had mixed reactions.

"This is a great decoration," Vega said.  "It shows what we've gone through and what we're willing to go through for our country.  But, at the same time, it seems unfair.  Some guys lose limbs and have broken bones.  I think maybe they should receive something more than what we got."

Vega said that the medal, while held in high esteem by Marines, is one he hoped to never wear.

"I'm glad to be decorated this way," Vega said.  "But, I think I speak for us all when I say none of us wanted it."