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Monday, April 7

Franks awards Bronze Medal to 2 101st Airborne troops

By Chantal Escoto | The (Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle

NAJAF, Iraq - U.S. war commander Gen. Tommy Franks visited the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Monday to present two soldiers with Bronze Star medals for their heroic actions during recent firefights here.

Sgt. James Ward of the 1st Battalion and Sgt. Lucas Goddard of the 3rd Battalion had their medals pinned on them while they were surrounded by hundreds of captured weapons and ammunition at an Iraqi military training camp. The camp was overtaken by Company C of the 1st Battalion last week.

They received the Bronze Star with the metal "V'' pin on it for ``valor.'' The Bronze Star without the "V'' is awarded to soldiers for noncombat achievements.

Ward said he didn't know he was getting a medal until an hour before the ceremony.

"I was working with my guys and was told the commander would be here to give me an award,'' he said. "It's a little overwhelming. I don't think it's really sunk in. I feel like we were all there and all gave 100 percent. I know only a few guys get it - you don't think it would be you.''

Ward was the first soldier to step into the training camp while the company was being shot at by Iraqis with AK-47 rifle rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, said Ward's commander, Capt. Pete Lind of Company C of the 1st Battalion.

Goddard also served as the lead man in an assault elsewhere in Najaf.

There were no U.S. casualties, but 23 Iraqis were killed during the raid on the camp, which was so successful that soldiers in the 101st decided to stay and occupy the complex for a while.

"Basically, (Ward) spearheaded the (operation) that got us into the compound,'' Lind said. "It was not only his leadership, but he was hands-on and showed the soldiers where to go. He also pulled another soldier to safety who had sprained his ankle,'' pulling him away "from the huge flames when a gas line blew up.''

Another 101st soldier, Pfc. Miguel Pena of the 1st Brigade's 2nd Battalion, also was supposed to get a Bronze Star Monday. However, he will receive his medal at a later date because the paperwork hadn't come through yet.

Before the ceremony, Franks faced Ward and Goddard, placing his hands on their shoulders and speaking to them quietly to help them to feel at ease. The award citation that was read aloud described the soldiers as showing extraordinary leadership and ``determination and capability while under direct fire.''

Franks' short speech seemed unrehearsed but drove home the point that every soldier matters.

"There's something real special to stand with these two young noncommissioned officers back here - and stand with these heroes,'' Franks said. "What I meant when I said `stand with these heroes' is, I meant all of you.

"Gen. Patton said, 'I'm a simple soldier. I don't pick where I go, but I win where I go.' These (Iraqi) people of this country are going to remember what you did for a long time.''