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Bravery on the Battlefield

25 Jan 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Heroism is defined by the actions of people in extreme situations.

 These people rarely see themselves as heroes, but they are the heart of the Marine Corps ethos.

 Cpl. Joseph T. Hand was a lance corporal during his first deployment to Iraq and served as an 81 millimeter mortar man. He now works in the S-3 shop with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5.

 A lot has changed since the last deployment when Hand was attached to 2nd Platoon, Company D, 3rd LAR.

 “This deployment is a lot quieter,” said Hand.

 Last deployment was more like what I imagined war to be like, said Hand, 22, who is from Kansas City Mo.

 “It is cool to come back and see how the area has changed,” said Hand.

 During his last deployment, Hand’s platoon lost six Marines and one Navy Corpsman.

 “It is good to come back and see that their work has paid off,” said Hand.

 “This year we aren’t focused on killing the enemy; we are focused on developing the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army as a whole,” said Hand.

 Hand was shortly hospitalized by a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device on his last deployment.

 “I don’t remember hearing the blast,” said Hand. “I just remember the roof collapsing and thinking about my parents and my girlfriend.”

 “He found his way back to us and went on patrols even while he was still hurt,” said Cpl. Jonathan G. Almeida, 21, from Beeville Texas, who is a squad automatic weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company C, 3rd LAR.

 Hands dedication was a constant that carried him through every scenario.

 “I would describe him as extremely motivated,” said 1st Lt. Courtney M. Rapé, 25, from College Station, Texas, who is a platoon commander, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd LAR.

 “Hand had the ability to excel in many different jobs.”

 While serving as not only a mortarman, but as a scout, rifleman, radio operator and vehicle commander, Hand proved his dedication to his fellow Marines during combat operations many times over.

 During one such operation near Rawah, a vehicle hit a pressure plate Improvised Explosive Device and was engulfed in flames.

 Not waiting for his own vehicle to stop, Hand jumped out and rushed to the burning hulk to render aid to the Marines inside. He crawled up on the vehicle while it was on fire and pulled out Staff Sgt. Scott, who had sustained severe burns. It was a dangerous situation as rounds began to cook off and explosives inside the vehicle detonated.

 Scott was able to recover from his injuries and may not be alive today if not for the quick thinking of Hand.

 “He loves his job and cares about the Marines around him,” said Almeida.

 After that deployment was over, Hand wanted to make sure that his fellow Marines and sailor were not forgotten.

 “While we were back in the states, we spent a lot of time with one of the families of a fallen Marine who was a friend,” said Almeida.

 “I just wanted to let the families of the seven in our platoon that we lost know that we will never forget the things they have done for us and how they have made our lives better,” said Hand.