MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Baton Rouge, La., native and Marine Corps Sgt. Michael P. Billeloo from the 2nd Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, received the Purple Heart from Maj. Gen. Cornell A. Wilson, deputy commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital, June 27, for injuries he received while serving in Iraq.
Billeloo served in the Marine Corps during the first Gulf War and got out of the Marine Corps after his first combat tour. However, according to Billeloo, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave him a new reason to fight, and he returned to the Corps after nine years of civilian life.
June 10, Billeloo was working at a vehicle inspection point on a major highway that runs from Syria to Baghdad when two suicide bombers approached his post. The first truck detonated in front of him. As he attempted to evade the blast, the second truck bomb went off behind him. Billelloo received shrapnel injuries in his back from the waist down.
“The worst part was the plane ride back from Iraq,” said the father of two boys. “I had a lot of packing in the wounds, and some of them were pretty deep. I was on a cargo plane bouncing up and down for five to eight hours at a time.
“Some days are better than others, but I think now that the surgery on my foot has been done, most of the pain is gone," he said.
Billeloo expects to make a full recovery and be released from the hospital by mid-July.
According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a congressionally-chartered veterans organization, the award is given to members of the U.S. military who become injured by enemy combat actions and is the oldest military decoration awarded to service members to show appreciation for their bravery and sacrifice to their country.