Sunday, February 7, 2016 –
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - In a long-awaited presentation, Feb. 7, 2016, the Army awarded the Purple Heart Medal to an Iraqi Freedom veteran for a concussion and traumatic brain injury sustained 10 years earlier. Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Clark, a native of Elkhart, Indiana, then a sergeant, was assigned to first Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and deployed to Iraq in 2006.
Clark, was knocked unconscious Jan. 25, 2006, from the blast wave caused by a secondary improvised explosive device detonation next to his vehicle. Clark’s unit were securing a military convoy that had been struck by a roadside improvised explosive device in Iraq when the detonations occurred.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Christian, commanding general of the 95th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) headquartered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, presented the award in a small assembly hall at the Capt. Lyle J. Thompson United States Army Reserve Center. Attending the presentation was Clark’s father Bruce, his wife Myrna along with other family members, Soldiers, community members, and veterans who gathered to honor the Soldier.
“This is one of the highlights of my career,” expressed Christian in his remarks to Clark and his family members regarding his privilege to award such a prestigious medal to Clark.
Christian presented the Purple Heart Medal after sharing a short history of the military decoration. The medal, the nation's oldest military award, was first conceived by President George Washington in August 1782 and was originally called the Badge of Military Merit. Christian recounted that Washington originally awarded the medal to Soldiers that exhibited valor in battle. Washington only pinned three Badges of Military Merit according to history.
The medal was not issued again until it was re-established as the Purple Heart Medal, on the bicentennial of Washington’s birth Feb. 22, 1932. The Purple Heart is now awarded to any member of the armed forces of the United States who has been wounded or killed while in armed combat against an enemy force.
When Clark was first injured in combat, he was not initially awarded the Purple Heart Medal. It wasn’t until three years ago that Clark found out he was eligible for the medal. In 2011 The Department of Defense issued clarifying guidance for awarding Purple Hearts in cases involving concussions and mild or traumatic brain injuries. Before this guidance, commanders were sometimes wrongly denying or sometimes not even acknowledging concussions or TBIs as qualifying criteria for Purple Heart medals.
When Clark learned of his eligibility for the Purple Heart he asked his chain of command to help him submit the necessary documentation for the award. When Clark told his family that he was working on the submission for the award, his father reminded him that it would likely be a bureaucratic process but that he would eventually be awarded.
“I couldn’t be [more proud] of him,” said Mr. Clark as he choked on his words following the pinning of his son’s Purple Heart medal, “he had a guardian angel watching over him.”
Mr. Clark remembered being nervous and anxious every day while his son was deployed for over year in Iraq. He remembers the day his son called him from Iraq to tell him that he had been wounded. He recalled feeling like his heart would jump out of his chest, but quickly recovered when he heard that Clark would be OK.
“It’s been 10 years and it means a lot of me and my family,” said Clark when asked how he was feeling about being awarded a Purple Heart.
After getting his Purple Heart pinned upon his chest, Clark addressed his fellow Soldiers and family members with sentiments of gratitude for their support to him and his family through the years.
“This Company really cares for each other and has each others back,” said Lt. Col. John Legg, Clark’s battalion commander. Legg went on to comment, “and it’s important for the Soldiers to see one of their leaders get recognition for doing what’s right.”
Legg described Clark as the type of Soldier that sets the example for other Soldiers. He continued to say that you never have to tell Clark anything twice.
Clark enlisted as an infantryman, Military Occupational Specialty 11B and attended Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in August 2001. Following training, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment in Camp Casey, South Korea. Following that assignment, Clark was assigned to 1st battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell. Clark has held various leadership positions to include team leader, squad leader and platoon sergeant.
Clark joined the Army Reserve in December 2006 to become a drill sergeant. Sgt. 1st Class Clark graduated from the 108th Training Command Drill Sergeant School in July 2008. Sgt. 1st Class Clark currently serves as a senior drill sergeant and is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 330th Infantry Regiment in Fort Wayne, Indiana.