June 12, 2006
The Hartford Courant  

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- It's the medal nobody is
looking to get.

The Purple Heart, the medal for getting wounded in
action. It's the consolation prize for ill fortune, and
it's been all too common in Charlie Company.

At a battalion ceremony, several Marines stand in a
line at Camp Baharia, at attention, waiting for the
steps of the general who runs the Marine Corps.
They are being honored with Purple Hearts, to be
pinned on by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, and most of
them are from Connecticut's Charlie Company.

Cpl. Joseph Estevez of East Hartford. Lance Cpl.
Eugene Roux III of Springfield. Lance Cpl. Ryan
Togneri of Turners Falls, Mass. Lance Cpl. Matt
Robbins of Canterbury.

There is a certain pride in the unit because of this
list, this proof that where they are living and
working is no joke. But the guys who stand to get
them have mixed feelings.

Robbins was up in a Humvee turret when a
roadside bomb knocked him unconscious. It was a
concussion that would later be evaluated as
"moderate traumatic brain injury." His ears still
ring sometimes and may for the rest of his life. So,
here is the general attaching a medal to his chest.

But Robbins will later say, "There's really not a
good reason I should have gotten one. People will
go from here missing arms and legs. I don't think I
deserve it."

Estevez got his for bullet fragments that remain in
his body, and his thinking matches Robbins': You
get the same medal whether you're killed or lightly

"There's no in-between. It doesn't seem quite fair."

Several others in Charlie Company have earned the
medal, too, with more Marines joining the list
almost every week. A couple of them had injuries
dire enough to send them home.

Though they have reservations about their own
medals, Robbins and Estevez both like that these
purple ribbons show they weren't standing on the
sidelines in Iraq.

Plus, Estevez added, "It means you get free drinks
the rest of your life."