Here is my dad and JD.
Local soldier honored for service
Former Guardsman hurt in ambush
|Brig. Gen. Charles Yriarte (left) Oregon Army National Guard, pins the Purple Heart medal on Spc. Justin Hendricks during a ceremony at the Ontario Armory Friday.|
Spc. Justin Hendricks, 25, received the medal from Brig. Gen. Charles L. Yriarte at a ceremony at the Ontario Armory.
In front of a crowd of family and friends, Hendricks was honored for his service during an IED ambush while serving with Eastern Oregon’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team near Kirkuk, Iraq. Hendricks was a member of the 3rd Battalion’s Alpha Company. Alpha Company hailed from Ontario but also consisted of soldiers from The Dalles and other states while deployed to Iraq.
“Hendricks is just one example of a 19-year-old kid that did extraordinary things under adverse conditions,” Maj. Nick Kotz said.
Kotz commanded Ontario’s Alpha Company in Iraq and said Hendricks — who was born in Ontario but grew up in Vale and Harper — illustrated the professionalism and pride prevalent in the 3rd Battalion.
“We had several examples of soldiers having to make decisions that were well above their years of knowledge,” Kotz said. Hendricks was a member of Alpha Company’s 3rd Platoon when it was ambushed in June 2004 during what is known as a “route-clearing” operation. Two Humvees were destroyed in the ambush, and two citizen-soldiers — 1st Lt. Tim Bomke, Portland, and Sgt. Johan Bagge, Eugene — were seriously injured while a number of other Guardsmen were wounded.
The IED ambush occurred before dawn and would eventually trigger a major operation by the 3rd Battalion to shut down the guerrilla movement near Kirkuk.
Hendricks was riding in Lt. Bomke’s Humvee, the first vehicle to be hit.
He was not seriously injured in the first blast but, after he exited Bomke’s Humvee, received shrapnel when the guerrillas set off the second IED.
“It knocked me unconscious. All I remember was it (the second IED) going off and I was in a field,” Hendricks said.
Once he regained consciousness, Hendricks helped his platoon secure the area while they waited for Bomke and Bagge to be evacuated.
“I didn’t realize I was hurt until it got daylight,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks said his wounds were treated at the hospital.
“They were not life-threatening. Got bandaged up, and they took some of the shrapnel out,” he said.
Hendricks served out the rest of his tour with the 3rd Battalion, and, when the unit redeployed back to the United States, he decided to go into the regular Army.
Hendricks just returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
He said there is a clear difference between the two tours.
“This time, every time we did something we were basically working with the Iraqi Army. It was good to see that change,” Hendricks said.
When the 3rd Battalion was deployed, Hendricks said, he and his fellow Guardsmen encountered far more violence — in terms of IEDs — then he did on his second stint with the 1st Infantry Division.
“I still think it’s a good thing we are there to help them. They still need help,” he said.
Progress has been made, Hendricks said.
“The Iraqi Army is pretty much operating on their own. I think you can see a positive difference,” he said.
Pat Caldwell is the editor of the Argus Observer. He can be contacted at PatC@argusobserver.com.