Soldiers recognized as heroes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Soldiers recognized as heroes

Private First Class, David Jatich Private First Class, David Jatich
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July 23, 2003

Ft. Benning - A wounded Georgia based soldier ends up on a stretcher next to Private First Class Jessica Lynch. Private First Class, David Jatich, says, "I know what it feels like, I'm glad to see her come home." The Fort Benning soldier and dozens of others receive medals for their bravery.

A ceremony at Fort Benning made it official. The men and women who came back to Georgia are heroes. More than 50 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment soldiers received honors Wednesday morning. Most soldiers spent 13 months overseas with three straight weeks of intense fighting in Iraq.

The Silver Star was the highest award given. It was pinned on six soldiers Wednesday morning, including their Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Charlton. Bronze Stars with the "V" device were given to those who showed bravery. Nearly two dozen soldiers were awarded purple hearts after coming home wounded.

Jatich, who was on a stretcher next to Private First Class Jessica Lynch, has his own amazing survival story to tell. He and another soldier were walking on a road in Baghdad. They got out of their tank to stretch their legs, but an explosion almost blew them off.

It's not an award you strive for because it comes by surprise. Jatich explains, "My friend we were walking along a freeway in Baghdad and some kind of explosion went off." Both got purple hearts. Jatich is only 19-years-old. He points at his left heel, "There's the entry wound, that's where metal is sitting right now."

He still has about 30 pieces of shrapnel in his foot and leg. His friend, Private First Class Garth Stewart, wasn't so lucky. Stewart remembers, "I wondered if someone had fired a weapon or not. Scanned the area looked at legs and realized I stepped on something because my legs were pretty mangled."

The 20-year-old's leg was amputated seven inches below the knee. He adds, "It's not something for which there is a lot of sorrow. I understood you could become hurt."

Both wounded soldiers are recovering fast. In fact, Jatich made special plans when he got back. Heather Wright, says, "We just got engaged a couple of weeks ago."

Wright is happy her future husband will heal. Jatich adds, "Luckily, Special Forces Medics saved our lives."

The unknown soldier who rescued Jatich and Stewart was shot three days later and survived.

Jatich has two years left in the Army. After that, he plans to go back to Ohio to become a sheriff deputy and of course get married in December 2004.

Stewart finishes the Army in two years and plans to start school. He is from Minnesota.

posted at 5:00PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com

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