Commanding Officer

Commandant pins Purple Hearts

12 Jun 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment were seeing stars when they received their Purple Hearts recently.

Five Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, were awarded their Purple Heart Medals from the Commandant of the Marine Corps during his recent visit here.

“I found out a few days prior that I was going to be pinned on by the commandant, but when I walked in the building on that day and saw a huge group of Marines sitting their for the ceremony I was pretty impressed,” said Lance Cpl Eugene D. Roux, who was struck by a piece of shrapnel while taking enemy fire in Fallujah.

Gen. Michael W. Hagee entered the chow hall here and was greeted by hundreds of “New England’s Own” Marines standing at attention to show their respect for the commandant.  He awarded the medal to Roux, along with Lance Cpl.’s Matthew Robbins, Anthony Gurreri, Ryan F. Togneri and Cpl. Joe J. Estevez.

The five Marines marched in front of the commandant in a formation to receive their medals.

The general stepped in front of each wounded Marine and spoke with them.

“What happened?” Hagee asked the Marines while standing directly in front of them. “Are you okay now?”

“He was genuinely concerned when he spoke to each of us,” said Estevez, assigned to C Company and was wounded in the same fight as Roux.

“I gave him a short version of what happened as he pinned the medal on my chest,” said Roux, also assigned to C Company, from Springfield, Mass.

The Marines received their Purple Heart Medal from the commandant and he also gave each of them one of his personalized coins.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be pinned on by him,” Estevez said, from East Hartford, Conn.

“Not too many people can say that they had a medal pinned on by the commandant of the Marine Corps,” added Togneri, who received multiple shrapnel wounds to his leg after being hit by an improvised explosive device in Fallujah.

The Marines sat upright in their chairs and listened to Hagee speak to the crowd while their Purple Heart Medals hung from their digital uniforms.

Once the ceremony was complete, some of the Marines spoke of their feelings on receiving the medal and being wounded in action.

“When it happened, I remember feeling a burning sensation in my left side,” Estevez said. “It was dark outside and I couldn’t see very well but I felt the area with my hand and it was warm and wet.  I tasted my finger and that’s when I knew that I was bleeding and had been hit.”

An enemy round ricocheted off of a piece of armor, forcing two pieces of small shrapnel into his left mid-section and arm.  Estevez’s wounds were treated and he was back clearing houses within an hour of the incident.

“I was lucky it wasn’t that bad,” Estevez said.

But not all the Marines were quite as lucky.

Togneri’s recovery wasn’t an easy process.  Three surgeries, damaged muscle tissue and a special shoe helped the 22 year-old get back on his feet before returning to duty.

“I think that all of the Marines would agree that it feels great to be back with our fellow Marines,” Togneri explained, from Turners Falls, Mass.