Army sergeant receives 2nd highest military honor

Apr 13, 2012, 1:15 AM

Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) – A Brazilian-born Army sergeant credited with saving two lives during an attack in Afghanistan while wounded has been presented with the nation’s second highest military honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno presented the medal to Sgt. Felipe Pereira (PUR-air-rah) of the 101st Airborne Division during a ceremony Thursday at the installation on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line.

Pereira is the first soldier from the famed 101st Airborne Division since Vietnam to receive the honor. He is assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Born in Brasilia, he moved to America at the age of 17 to learn English at a Nebraska college. He earned a degree in biology and was working as a martial arts instructor when he decided to join the Army. In 2010, he became a dual citizen of Brazil and the United States.

He said he never expected his life to take the path it has _ from an immigrant who knew only a few phrases of English to being decorated with such a medal. His parents flew from Brazil to see him receive the medal.

“I don’t think it fazed me until today when I stood here and heard the general talking about me,” he told reporters after the ceremony. “I think it’s just a great, great honor to represent the 101st Division and the caliber of the fighting forces we have here.”

Pereira described the November 1, 2010, attack in Kandahar province when he was injured by a suicide bomber and two other soldiers were killed. Despite shrapnel wounds to his lung, he jumped on an all-terrain vehicle to rescue two wounded soldiers who were pinned down by enemy fire.

Pereira said the attack started with a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who rode up to the squad as they were patrolling on foot.

“The explosion propelled me up and I was laying on the ground and it was time to make a choice. Are you going to sit down and ask for help, or are you actually going to get up and do something? I will tell you I didn’t think about anything else besides, `Am I capable of fighting? Yes, I am,'” he said.

He grabbed an all-terrain vehicle, which he described as “an oversized golf cart,” and drove to where wounded soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire. He returned fire as bullets ricocheted off the vehicle and barely missed him. Using the vehicle, he brought the injured soldiers to medics and helped get others out of danger.

Only after everyone was safe did he acknowledge his injuries, which included a collapsed lung, and shrapnel wounds to his spleen and liver.

He said the soldiers joked about using the small all-terrain vehicle that offers very little protection and is mostly for getting around the base.

“We always used to say, `How awesome would it be to put a machine gun on the back that little cart?'” he said laughing.

But he said getting the medal was a solemn moment to remember the two soldiers that were killed in the attack, Pfc. Andrew Meari and Spc. Jonathan Curtis.

“The ultimate sacrifice to me is what defines a hero,” he said. “That’s why I keep saying I don’t think I have done anything beyond my duty.”

Odierno said while Pereira thinks he was only doing his duty and that his squad all fought together, he deserves the award.

“You were awarded this honor because you went above and beyond the call of duty, selflessly rescuing other soldiers before attending to your own injuries and wear it proudly knowing that this medal represents the thanks of a grateful nation,” Odierno said during the ceremony.

Denise Meehan, whose son Andrew Meari was killed in the suicide bombing, said Pereira was one of the first soldiers from the unit to reach out to her personally.

“To me, it was only a matter of time until such recognition was granted him,” she said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - Carlos Santana performs at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival in Napa, Calif., on May...
Associated Press

Rocker Carlos Santana ‘doing well’ after collapsing onstage

DETROIT (AP) — Guitar icon Carlos Santana collapsed on stage during a show in Michigan and was rushed to a hospital, later blaming the episode on forgetting to eat or drink water. Santana, 74, was “doing well” Wednesday after being taken from his show at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, some 40 miles northwest […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

North Dakota man appeals convictions in slayings of 4 people

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — A man sentenced to life in prison for killing four people at a North Dakota business in what authorities say was one of the most heinous crimes in the state’s history is appealing his conviction. An attorney for Chad Isaak argues the man’s conviction should be reversed because of errors during […]
9 hours ago
Roberto Marquez adds a Guatemalan flag to a makeshift memorial at the site where officials more tha...
Associated Press

Texas officials ID all but 6 of 53 migrant truck victims

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — All but six of the 53 migrants found dead or dying in a tractor-trailer in Texas last week have been identified, officials said Wednesday. The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office said 22 of the dead were from Mexico, 19 were from Guatemala and six were from Honduras. The migrants were found […]
9 hours ago
FILE - In this May 17, 2018, file photo, new graduates line up before the start of the Bergen Commu...
Associated Press

Work at a school or nonprofit? You could erase student loans

NEW YORK (AP) — When Melissa Martinez applied to have her student loan debt forgiven more than a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Education told her she was ineligible. Martinez, a professor, tried again this past year and managed to erase the last $6,000 she owed for her doctorate. She wasn’t alone — according […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad: July 4 The Washington Post says that, after the abortion ruling, digital privacy is more important than ever In the 21st century, our phones might know we are pregnant before the people closest to us do — a reality that, with the overturning of Roe […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Speaker of the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, ri...
Associated Press

Putin’s aide warns US against pressing for war crimes court

MOSCOW (AP) — A top Kremlin official warned the U.S. Wednesday that it could face the “wrath of God” if it pursues efforts to help establish an international tribunal to investigate Russia’s action in Ukraine, while the Russian lower house speaker urged Washington to remember that Alaska used to belong to Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, the […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Army sergeant receives 2nd highest military honor