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Second Purple Heart and Bronze Star awarded to explosive ordnance disposal heroes

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander, pins a Bronze Star on Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lipinski, 314th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, during a ceremony at the base theater Jan. 30. Sergeant Lipinski disarmed more than 60 improvised explosive devices on 170 combat missions during his deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Steele Britton)

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander, pins a Bronze Star on Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lipinski, 314th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, during a ceremony at the base theater Jan. 30. Sergeant Lipinski disarmed more than 60 improvised explosive devices on 170 combat missions during his deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Steele Britton)

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander, pins a Purple Heart on Staff Sgt. Matthew Patnaude, 314th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, during a ceremony at the base theater Jan. 31. Sergeant Patnaude has earned two Purple Hearts in the last two years for his work while deployed. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Steele Britton)

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander, pins a Purple Heart on Staff Sgt. Matthew Patnaude, 314th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal, during a ceremony at the base theater Jan. 31. Sergeant Patnaude has earned two Purple Hearts in the last two years for his work while deployed. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Steele Britton)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Two recently deployed Airmen from the 314th Airlift Wing Civil Engineer Squadron received honors in a ceremony here Jan. 30.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Patnaude received his second Purple Heart and Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lipinski was awarded the Bronze Star. Both Airmen are 314th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal specialists who deployed with the 101st Airborne to Kirkuk, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander, presented the Airmen with their respective medals. "They (Sergeant Patnaude and Sergeant Lipinski) define the wingman concept; meeting the objective under the worst of circumstances," he said.

Deployed from July 2006 to December 2006, Sergeant Patnaude was shot by a sniper the day after his 24th birthday while diffusing a roadside bomb on a main supply route outside Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. Of his three deployments, Sergeant Patnaude has returned with two Purple Hearts. His previous Purple Heart was awarded when he sustained hearing damage from an improvised explosive device.

The day of his injury, Sergeant Patnaude was flown to Balad Surgical Hospital, Iraq. Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces, awarded Sergeant Patnaude with a Purple Heart the same day. Sergeant Patnaude was later flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility, Germany, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington D.C.

Sergeant Patnaude's family traveled from their hometown of Palmyra, N.Y., to visit him.

While Sergeant Patnaude has been injured twice on deployments, he said he'd "rather be out there than sitting at home any day of the week, I love my job." While his parents are concerned for his safety, he says that his dad, Tim, "realizes its part of the job. He supports me."

During the ceremony, General Self said, "we (Sergeant Patnaude and himself) were on this stage about this time a year ago (when Sergeant Patnaude received his first Purple Heart)." "Let's not make this an annual event," he jested.

Bronze Star recipient Sergeant Lipinski, a Rochester Hills, Mich., native, disarmed more than 60 improvised explosive devices on 170 combat missions during his deployment to Kirkuk. This was his first deployment to Iraq.

On one of his missions, his team's vehicle suffered a direct hit by a roadside bomb.

"Being blown up is like being caught in a large wave in the ocean," Sergeant Lipinski said. "You have no control of your body. When it's all done, you hope everything is still attached."

Sergeant Lipinski said he is proud of the job he did saving lives and keeping the highways and byways of Iraq safe for U.S. convoys.

"If convoys can't get past an IED, they can't get supplies (to) bases or train Iraqis," he said. "So freeing the routes of roadside bombs is integral to our mission there."

Lt. Col. Richard Sloop, 314th CES commander, reminds that even though two Airmen are home safe, "we still have 47 engineers out in the field, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait."

To his troops Colonel Sloop says, "Be ready to go and be prepared. Combat engineers carry the load, that's our job. They have to be ready."

Both Sergeant Patnaude and Sergeant Lipinski continue to recover and are performing limited duties.
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