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Minnesota National Guard
Soldier receives Purple Heart as families talk about war

Last September, Judy Clark received a phone call from her son's first lieutenant in Iraq

"You don't ever want to get that phone call," she said

But her son Kristopher, a specialist in the Scout platoon of the 2nd Battalion 136th Infantry, had asked the lieutenant to call home for him so he could talk to her

Spc Clark's unit was on patrol Sept 2 near Taqaddum when the unit returned to their sniper observation post for the night But an IED had been planted there, and the truck drove directly over the spot when it detonated Spc Clark was in the truck when it happened

"Some shrapnel came through the floor and got me in the foot," said Spc Clark
"It was his last patrol before his mid-term leave," said Clark's mother "Every time I think of Kristopher, I think of how fortunate we are"

The injury put Spc Clark, of Fergus Falls, Minn, in line for a Purple Heart

"Originally I was going to wait to get pinned when the guys came home," said Spc Clark, "but with the extension, I decided that it would be over a year from the injury, and I just wanted it done"

So, with more than a dozen family and friends on hand at the Moorhead Armory, Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, with assistance from Spc Clark's mother and father, pinned the Purple Heart

The pinning ceremony came at the conclusion of a community listening session Maj. Gen. Shellito, along with US Sen Norm Coleman, flew to Moorhead and Hibbing Saturday to hear concerns from citizens and families affected by deployments More than 100 people turned out to share their concerns, and representatives from Family Readiness Groups were present to ask questions about the extension

The delegation said Minnesota's state and federal officials have worked hard to ease the burdens caused by the deployments, but that there's always more to do For example, Gov Tim Pawlenty has been a tireless champion of Minnesota's military families, and former Senator Mark Dayton brought $3 million in federal dollars to Minnesota's reintegration efforts before retiring from the US Senate in 2006

"Senator Klobuchar is in Iraq today, and if she wasn't in Iraq, we'd probably be doing this together," Coleman said of the listening sessions

About 2,600 Soldiers are serving in Iraq with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division and more than 400 Airmen of the 148th Fighter Wing are also currently deployed to the region, many on their second or third rotations

By Spc Thomas Keeler




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