MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- An Athens, Ga., native was presented the Purple Heart Medal here Nov. 10 for wounds received in combat in Iraq.
Lance Cpl. John T. Shepard, a 31-year-old boat mechanic formerly with Small Craft Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, and several members of his unit had been conducting a foot patrol through Ramadi’s streets in August when they were ambushed by several insurgents.
The capital city of western Iraq’s Al Anbar province is located approximately 100 kilometers west of Baghdad, and has been a focal point of resistance against U.S. forces.
“One guy threw a grenade in our direction, and (the blast) threw me back,” explained Shepard, a former University of Georgia student, as he recalled the attack on his unit. “I took shrapnel in the face, lip and leg, and I suffered a concussion. My squad leader was also shot in the face that same day.”
Shepard further explained that he and his teammates killed at least one of the insurgents responsible for this attack.
Currently, Shepard, a Marine who has deployed to Iraq three times during his four-year-long enlistment, is recovering from periodic back pains and headaches that he claims are “no big deal.”
His service to the Corps draws to a close as he spends time with his wife, Brandy, and 16-month-old son, Gabriel. Shepard said he often reflects on his experience this summer, and how his brush with death rekindled his faith in the Global War on Terrorism overseas.
“I feel lucky that I’m not in pieces right now, and that I still get to be with my wife and son. I’ve learned that life is precious,” he added. “I still strongly agree with everything that we’re doing over there, and I think the service members are doing a great job. Many Iraqis now have good health care and clean running water systems, but those are things people here (in the U.S.) never hear much about.”