Story and Photos by
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Staff Sgt. Llewellyn Grant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, received his second Purple Heart from Col. Jay Hammer, executive officer, USAG-HI, during a special award ceremony, at the Tropic Lightning Memorial, outside the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters, here, Aug. 10.
Grant was involved in three separate improvised explosive device attacks in Kirkuk, Iraq, Aug. 9, 2007; Aug. 20, 2007; and Sept. 5, 2007, when he was the engineer team leader for Company A, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. Grant received Purple Heart awards for the latter two events, as he sustained injuries from those two blasts.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war, in the hands of the enemy. The award is also presented posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
“We come to these ceremonies to honor those who took over where we left off,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Donald Cook, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Hawaii Rainbow Chapter 483.
“Getting the Purple Hearts closes the circle for us, and it gives him back his sense of pride,” said Grant’s wife, Raphaela, about the three-year battle they ensued to get Grant’s two Purple Hearts. “You know your Soldier best, so don’t question yourself when you know something is definitely wrong with (him or her).”
Grant’s first run in was Aug. 9, when an IED struck the rear of his vehicle, blowing out the vehicle’s tire and shattering the back window.
“I wasn’t injured,” Grant said. “I was just angry that it damaged the Buffalo I was in charge of.”
Two weeks later, another IED struck the ground 8 feet from the humvee Grant was traveling in.
The impact knocked Grant unconscious, and when he finally came to, his first priority was to check the vehicle and keep the convoy rolling on.
“I was the biggest guy in the vehicle, so I didn’t want to be the guy that was hurt,” Grant said. “I was the team leader, and my Soldiers looked up to me. I just wanted to go on with the missions.”
Sixteen days later, Grant was involved in the most serious of the three IED attacks. Out on patrol, the Buffalo Grant was riding in drove over a water-based IED.
“All you could hear was crack and then a boom. I knew we were hit,” Grant said. “I was just glad my vehicle drove over it, and not the RG31 (Mine Protected Armored Personnel Carrier), because all five of the people in it would have been killed.”
The IED hit the front of the vehicle, and because of the immense pressure, it blew out the dashboard and overhead hatches. The blast was so strong, it lifted the 76,000-pound Buffalo off the ground, rendering it destroyed.
“I fell to the ground three times trying to stand up,” he said. “I was still in shock. I couldn’t tell if I was dead or alive.”
After three back-to-back events, Grant said he suffered horrific nightmares and bouts of insomnia.
“I just wanted to quit because of the pain I was in and the headaches I was suffering from,” Grant said. “After I finally got help, I learned to accept it and deal with it, but I’m (always) in pain.”
Grant planned on making a career out of the military and had aspirations of going to Officers Candidate School. However, due to the injuries sustained during his 2007 tour, Grant is medically retired at age 28.
“It’s like a relationship you don’t want to see end. You still want to maintain the relationship, even if you’re having problems,” Grant said, about having to leave the military sooner than he planned.
“Retiring from the military is bittersweet for me,” he added. “I’m done with all the aggravation, but in my heart, I’m not ready to leave.”
View more photos on Flickr.