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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Second Lieutenant Joseph T. Buffamante, the tank commander for 2nd Platoon, Company C, was awarded the Purple Heart here May 16. While on deployment to Iraq, Buffamante's tank was hit by an enemy mortar.

Photo by Adam Johnston

Tank Officer receives Purple Heart

16 May 2005 | Pfc. Adam Johnston

The day started out no different than any other.  2nd Lt. Joseph T. Buffamante, the tank commander for 2nd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division had just finished his daily patrol and was heading back to camp to get some rest.  But, with one loud boom, this 23-year-old’s day turned into something that he will never forget.

Buffamante, a native of Great Valley, N.Y., was awarded the Purple Heart here May 16 for wounds received in action on Oct. 17, 2004 while stationed at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

“It came completely out of nowhere.  Before I knew what had hit us, I felt myself being thrown down into the tank.  There was blood everywhere,” said Buffamante.

Buffamante’s tank had come under direct mortar fire from insurgents.

“I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.  There’s no way to prevent such a thing,” said Buffamante.

With his means of transportation damaged beyond repair, Buffamante’s wingman took the initiative, scooped him and his crew up and escorted them back to the battalion’s aid station safely.

“I received lacerations on my face and shoulder, both of which required stitches.  It took 18 stitches to sew up my facial injury and 10 to close the open wound on my shoulder,” said Buffamante.

As a precautionary measure, Buffamante stayed at the BAS overnight.  The doctors there told him he would not need surgery and they placed him on light duty for one week.

“I called my mom from BAS.  She was very strong on the phone, but she probably broke down after we hung up.  She was just happy to hear that I was ok,” said Buffamante.

In just his first deployment since being commissioned in May 2003, Buffamante’s decision to join was brought about, in part, by the Marine Corps TV commercials.  He wanted to be part of an elite fighting force.

Though not the award one strives to achieve, Buffamante agrees that it is an honor to receive it.

“You always have to maintain your focus in times of distress.  Trust your training and trust your Marines; both will help you in coming away from such situations with your life,” said Buffamante.