CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Next time Sgt. Aaron C. Morgan marches in a parade with the 1st Marine Division Band, expect his uniform to look just a little different
Morgan, a bandsmen assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, was awarded the Purple Heart Medal June 24. Morgan, a percussionist from the 1st Marine Division Band, was wounded while performing security operations for an explosive ordnance disposal team April 17.
Morgan was the turret gunner in the lead vehicle of his convoy running down one of the more traveled roads in the area. It was late at night, the sky split with lightning.
“We just completed our job and were returning to Camp Smitty,” said Morgan, a 25-year-old from Baird, Texas. “I saw a bright flash and heard an extremely loud noise. I was covered in dirt and rocks.”
The next few actions occurred all in moments, Morgan explained. He dropped into his turret and bounced back up to his gun to search for a possible triggerman. He felt something wet on his cheek and it tasted coppery. It was his own blood.
“My first thought was I just wanted to see my wife,” Morgan said. He collected himself, assessed there was no major damage and everyone else was good. The convoy pressed on.
“You’re worried about the gunners,” said Cpl Guy N. Griffin, a 19-year-old from Ruidoso, N.M., who was a couple vehicles back from Morgan that night. “They radioed back and said everyone was good. hen we got back, I could see Sgt. Morgan was a little banged up in the face.”
Corpsmen and doctors helped clean the dirt and debris from Morgan’s face and found a piece of shrapnel had torn across his cheek, just inches below his eye.
“I was just glad to be alive and it wasn’t worse than it was,” he said.
While Morgan isn’t the first Marine bandsmen wounded in combat, he’s among a rare few. It’s a telling sign that Marines from all walks are giving their part in the fight against terror, according to Master Sgt. George E. Schweizer, the 1st Marine Division band master who deployed to be RCT-5’s security chief.
“The reason Sgt. Morgan was out there was because he was hand-picked,” said 41-year-old Schweizer, from Wheeling, W.V. “He was put in a tough position because I knew he could multi-task.”
The fact that Morgan is wearing a Purple Heart, not a decoration most would immediately associate with a Marine from the band, shows that it’s not just infantry Marines giving their all in Iraq.
“It’s not as unique as we as a band come back to Iraq” Schweizer said. “We’re performing more security missions out on the roads every day, supporting the infantry and that’s what it’s all about.”
For his part, the Purple Heart is an award Morgan never set out to earn.
“It’s really no more unique than anyone else,” Morgan said. “We all have a job to do.”