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Sergeant David Fresenius, an assistant team leader with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, is awarded the Purple Heart by Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, 1st Marine Division (Forward) commanding general, aboard Camp Leatherneck, Sept. 23. The 23-year-old from Westminster, Calif., was hit in the top of his back’s protective Sapi plate during a small arms fire engagement in Trek Nawa, on June 21, 2010. The round lodged in his protective gear, just millimeters away from breaking skin and hitting his upper spine. After his corpsman attended to the wound, that left a baseball-sized welt in his upper back, a very lucky and determined Fresenius re-donned his gear, and got back in the engagement with the Taliban that lasted just over an hour. “It felt like I had been hit with a sledge hammer,” Fresenius said. “Once I realized I was okay, my only thoughts were to get back to the fight – to get back with my men.”

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Will Price

Recon Marine who survived sniper attack receives Purple Heart

23 Sep 2010 | Gunnery Sgt. Will Price

Sgt. David Fresenius was lying on a rooftop in Helmand province’s Trek Nawa on the morning of June 21. His machine gunner and radio operator, Cpl. Greg Harris, was by his side, providing over-watch security for their unit, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.

Everything was quiet until approximately 9 a.m., when all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, the village erupted with enemy small arms fire. For Fresenius, a 23-year-old native of Westminster, Calif., the situation was about to get a lot worse. Approximately three minutes into the engagement, he saw rounds coming from a canal and brush about 300 meters from his right.

What Fresenius didn’t realize was that while he had been acquiring his target, a Taliban sniper had gotten Fresenius in his sights. The enemy sniper squeezed out a bullet. A 7.62 mm round hit Fresenius square in the back.

“It felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer,” Fresenius recalls.

Despite seeing his assistant team leader hit, Harris, from Apple Valley, Calif., thought, “Keep firing,” to disrupt further enemy fire. After emptying his load, Harris finished his rounds, and rushed to Fresenius' aid.

Fresenius, writhing in pain, was pulled by his legs to safety. As Harris yelled for the corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dan Brown, also known as "Doc," came running. Harris and Brown got Fresenius inside by climbing down a ladder on the backside of the beseiged building. That’s when Doc Brown went to work.

With bullets still impacting just three to four feet over his head, Brown, from Colorado Springs, Colo., tended to the wounded Marine. “I immediately stripped his gear off, to examine the wound. I saw he had been hit on the top of his spine, but thankfully, the round had NOT impacted the skin.”

How was this possible? The round had shattered the top of Fresenius’ protective Sapi plate. The impact left a welt the size of a baseball on the middle of his back, but did not penetrate his skin! The Marine was shaken, but appeared to be otherwise okay.

“Once I realized I was okay, my only thoughts were to get back to the fight – to get back to my men,” Fresenius said.

He returned to his position and proceeded to continue engaging the enemy with his M40-A3 sniper rifle. Harris continued spotting for him for the next hour, exploiting all enemy positions.

The engagement ended when air support, two AH-1 Cobras, arrived. The aerial gunships and 3rd platoon killed several enemy insurgents and forced the rest to flee.

Two months later on Sept. 23, in front of his entire battalion, Fresenius was awarded the Purple Heart by Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, 1st Marine Division (Forward) commanding general, aboard Camp Leatherneck.

Fresenius, who enlisted in the Marines in June 2006, right after graduating from Mount Ridge High School, in Phoenix, Ariz., said he was proud to be following in the footsteps of his father, a 0311 Marine infantrymen.