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Two 167th members earn Purple Hearts

November 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Two members of a local West Virginia Air National Guard unit injured by an explosive device in Iraq in June were presented Sunday with Purple Heart awards.

Staff Sgt. Brad Runkles and Staff Sgt. Derek J. Brown were among five members of the 167th Airlift Wing honored during a ceremony at the base Sunday afternoon.

Runkles and Brown were injured when the vehicle in which they were riding came in contact with an improvised explosive device June 28, said Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver.

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The explosive device detonated, leaving Runkles with lacerations on his face, neck and one hand, Sencindiver said.

Runkles still is having problems with his hand, Sencindiver said.

Brown was treated at a hospital and allowed to return to duty, Sencindiver said.

Also receiving recongition Sunday for outstanding service in Iraq were Tech Sgt. Mark K. Johnson, Staff Sgt. James J. Wood and Senior Airman David L. Grim II, Sencindiver said.

Those three men, along with Runkles and Brown, received the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal, Sencindiver said.

The five men started their mission in Iraq in February and returned last month.

Brown and Runkles also received a U.S. flag from U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., Sencindiver said.

"It's really kind of a neat story," Sencindiver said of Brown and Runkles, who were childhood friends and joined the Guard together in May 2000.

In a telephone interview later Sunday, Brown said he is still amazed what he and Runkles experienced.

"It's hard to believe we walked away from it," Brown said.

The award of the Purple Heart meant a lot, Brown said.

"It made you real proud to be a part of that association," said Brown, who was joining Runkles for a week of hunting in Boone County after the awards ceremony.

Runkles said he is thankful that he and Brown were able to return home. Runkles reflected on the people who have not survived the war in Iraq.

Participating in Sunday's ceremony was Gen. Allen Tackett, the Adjutant General of West Virginia. Tackett oversees all Army and Air Guard operations in the state.

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