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 Gen. Ray Johns, Air Mobility Command commander, presented Staff Sgt. Brian Williams with a Purple Heart, the Air Force Combat Action Medal and a Bronze Star Medal
 Williams' months have been filled with numerous surgeries since his return, in addition to extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation.
 The Bronze Star Medal is an individual military decoration of the U.S. armed forces that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service.
 
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Williams award ceremony
A packed house at the Joint Base Theatre gives a standing ovation to Staff Sgt. Brian Williams, a 87th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler (not shown), during his awards ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 28, 2012. Williams received the Purple Heart, Air Force Combat Action Medal and Bronze Star Medal from Gen. Raymond E. Johns, Air Mobility Command commander, during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Russ Meseroll)
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AMC commander joins JB MDL members to honor wounded warrior

Posted 10/1/2012   Updated 10/2/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Master Sgt. Denise Johnson
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs


10/1/2012 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.  -- Gen. Ray Johns, Air Mobility Command commander, presented Staff Sgt. Brian Williams with a Purple Heart, the Air Force Combat Action Medal and a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony at the Joint Base Theater here Sept. 28.

The commander, who was visiting from AMC Headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., joined multitudes of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst members as they paid tribute to the 87th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler who fell victim to an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan April 25.

The six-time deployer sustained, among other wounds, injuries to all four limbs including the loss of his left leg above the knee while clearing an IED-manufacturing compound.

The ceremony marked Williams' first public appearance at his home base since the incident. More than 500 supporters filled the theater to standing-room only as the Phoenix, Ariz., native made his way to center stage. The commander waited patiently, deferring to the guest of honor as the applause and cheers rose to a deafening crescendo for nearly a minute.

"Brian has been an inspiration to us all," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Novak, 87th SFS commander and event emcee. "He's epitomized the defender mindset, overcoming obstacles some would find insurmountable."

Williams' months have been filled with numerous surgeries since his return, in addition to extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation. He's been reunited with family and friends, and has shared several poignant visits with his MWD partner, Carly, since that fateful day.

"I am humbled by the outpouring of support," Williams said. "It's been a trying road, but my family - including my security forces and JB MDL family - has been with me every step of the way ... from the moment the wheels touched down on U.S. soil."

Williams returned from Afghanistan via Germany, landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland April 29 aboard the Mississippi Air National Guard C-17A Globemaster III named "The Spirit of the Purple Heart." His family and girlfriend, in addition to 87th Air Base Wing leaders, traveled to Maryland in a show of solidarity and support to their wounded warrior.

"It's my honor to present these decorations to Sergeant Williams. He represents the countless men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm's way every day," Johns said, following the ceremony. "He represents that indomitable spirit found in the hearts of heroes. I am incredibly proud to know him and to be present to acknowledge his and his families' sacrifice."

Williams still resides at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he is receiving ongoing treatment and therapy.

Williams' parents are both retired Soldiers. His father, Lionel Williams is a retired sergeant first class who currently resides in Peoria, Ariz.; his mother, Catherine Williams, retired as an Army staff sergeant and calls Sierra Vista, Ariz., home.

Williams extended his gratitude to his deployed unit, the Soldiers who were with him, the medical personnel downrange and in Germany, and to the aircrews who transported him so expediently. He also individually thanked each of the senior leaders who visited and supported him; acknowledged friends and family for their enduring support; and shared a special word of appreciation for his girlfriend, Emily Christofaro, "Thank you for not giving up on me ... for being there on ("The Spirit of the Purple Heart") when I needed to see you."

Williams paused before adding, "I love you."

Williams was approximately mid-way through a six-month deployment when the tragedy occurred. This was Williams' sixth deployment since he joined the Air Force in 2000.
"Of course we worried incessantly about him," mom, Catherine, said. "But it didn't come as any great surprise to see him face this extremely daunting challenge head on and find that inner strength to navigate the roadblocks."

The Purple Heart is the oldest military award. It was established by George Washington and was known as the Badge of Military Merit. It now is awarded to anyone serving in the armed forces who received combat-related injuries. It is estimated that 1,700,000 Purple Heart medals have been awarded to members of the United States military since its inception in 1782.

The secretary of the Air Force approved establishment of the Air Force Combat Action Medal March 15, 2007, to recognize any military member of the Air Force who actively participated in combat (ground or air). The principal eligibility criterion is that the individual must have been under direct and hostile fire while operating in unsecured space (outside the defended perimeter), or physically engaging hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.

The Bronze Star Medal is an individual military decoration of the U.S. armed forces that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. The Bronze Star Medal with the "V" device is awarded for combat heroism and without the "V" device it is awarded for merit. The medal is the fourth-highest combat decoration and the ninth highest U.S. military award in order of precedence (combat and noncombat).



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