Wounded heroes receive Purple Heart

18 Jun 2009 | Pfc. Walter Marino

Twenty Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, received Purple Heart Medals during a ceremony here, June 15, for injuries sustained during recent combat operations in Afghanistan.

The Purple Heart is the successor of the Badge of Military Merit, established by George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782. The original order for the badge states “Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”

Lt. Col. David L. Odom, the battalion commander, presented the awards while proud family members, friends, and more than 900 fellow Marines from the battalion looked on. He greeted each of the injured Marines with a firm handshake and solemn words of appreciation for their dedicated service.

Lance Cpl. Zachery Maltman, a 21-year-old native of Smyrna, Tenn., is one Marine who received a Purple Heart Medal during the ceremony. He was injured Jan. 2009 when an enemy booby-trap exploded while he helped secure a compound in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Maltman sustained bruises from his right ankle to his right armpit as well as internal injuries and shrapnel in his right leg.

“We left the wire right as the sun was coming up, then walked out to a compound to set up an observational post,” said the rifleman. “We came in through the back door and went into a courtyard, where we had to search the whole compound.”

In order to set up a safe observation post, all houses in the compound had to be cleared. One house remained and Maltman was called into action.

“There was a wall separating the house from the courtyard we were in. The only way in was a hole in the wall 3 feet by 3 feet,” Maltman said. “We decided the smallest guy should go through, which was myself.”

A devious enemy had planted an explosive device in the wall designed to kill or injure anyone, military or civilian, who came too near.

“The pressure plate was on the ground and the explosive was in the walls,” said Cpl. Ryan Little, a member of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines from Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Maltman shifted his weight as he moved through the hole in the wall.

“My right foot hit the deck, and I felt an explosion. Then, I remember just kind of coming to,” he said.

“With all the smoke, you couldn’t breathe, you couldn’t see. We were just trying to get him out of there,” Little said. “I grabbed him by the flak [vest] and pulled him out.”

Little and several other Marines carried Maltman nearly 500 meters to safety.

“Everyone did their job. He’s really lucky, and I’m just glad he’s ok,” Little said.

As the ceremony ended and people began to leave, Maltman was still receiving congratulations and handshakes from friends and hugs from his pregnant wife.

“I just couldn’t wait to get back,” Maltman said. “My wife is due in about two weeks. I couldn’t wait to get back for the baby.”

Maltman is just one Marine of many from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines injured while fighting to provide a more secure environment and hopeful future for the people of Afghanistan.