MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Lance Cpl. Albert R. Harper, a vehicle operator with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Regimental Combat Team 6, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd), was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a combat distinguishing device here Aug. 23 for heroism and courage while under fire and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Feb. 16, 2007.
Harper was leaving Camp Corregidor, near Ramadi, Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by an 82mm mortar round.
“The mortar round struck the roof of the vehicle just behind the driver's seat,” Harper said. “It sent shrapnel rounds through the vehicle and through my right shoulder blade all the way to my right arm.”
In the attack, the convoy’s leader, Capt. Todd Siebert, was killed, which forced the battalion gunner to take charge. After the attack, Harper's battalion gunner assessed the situation. The battalion gunner instructed Harper to take over the controls and drive the vehicle.
Harper drove the vehicle an additional three kilometers through hostile urban terrain to evacuate several remaining injured Marines to a safe location at Camp Corregidor despite being in tremendous pain and rapidly losing blood and consciousness.
Brig. Gen. David H. Berger, the assistant division commander of 2nd Marine Division, pinned the medals on Harper and spoke to the audience after the ceremony.
“No Marines that get awarded medals of valor or Purple Hearts ask for it,” Berger explained. “At the right time and the wrong place, they took the right action.”
Harper gave advice for Marines preparing to deploy soon or Marines currently deployed about facing challenging situations.
“Remain calm no matter what,” Harper said. “Panic is not the answer. Follow orders and do what you're told.”