JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Sixteen service members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 14 received the Purple Heart Medal from Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, commander, Naval Reserve Force, in a ceremony before 375 people Aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville July 11.
The 16 Seabees, along with four more Seabees from NMCB 14, were seriously wounded in attacks April 30 and May 2, while mobilized to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The other four remain hospitalized and have already received their Purple Heart Medals. Seven NMCB 14 Sailors were killed during the same two attacks.
The Jacksonville-based battalion was serving in a humanitarian capacity in Iraq by helping to rebuild and improve infrastructure and schools, restore water and electrical power, and repair sewage systems.
"Thank goodness we have people like these great Americans who put their lives on hold to go and fight," said Cotton. "The men and women of NMCB 14, and especially those who are sitting here wounded today, I salute you for the service you have given to our great country."
One of the Seabees, Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Odis Reyes, of Jacksonville, received shrapnel injuries in his left leg and lower extremities during the attack. His daughter, Jasmine, 10, pinned a Purple Heart medal on his desert camouflage uniform.
"I'm very proud of my father," said Jasmine, "and I love him very much."
"I was over there for my daughter [and] for all the other children," Reyes said.
He also praised the quick reactions of the many Seabees, corpsmen and other individuals who went to help the injured right after the attack.
"The corpsmen reacted professionally and quickly, saving many lives."
Some NMCB 14 Seabees are trying to go back to Iraq to join their shipmates and finish the fight.
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