SIGONELLA, Sicily (NNS) -- During a frocking ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, a newly appointed petty officer first class received the Purple Heart, May 30.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Leroy Williams Jr. received much more than a frocking certificate and a new set of chevrons. Capt. Chris Dennis, NAS Sigonella commanding officer, presented Williams with the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained from an improvised explosive device (IED) while deployed to Afghanistan.
"This award is a representation of a lot of things," said Dennis. "It's a representation of a lot of professionalism and a lot of devotion to duty, and love. I just want to make sure that we all understand that and take time to appreciate [Petty Officer] Williams, the dog handlers, and all of the fine folks at [NAS Sigonella] Security."
Williams, NAS Sigonella Military Working Dog Division, was downrange where he was tasked to the front with his canine "Dinomt," to search for hidden explosive devices.
"We were looking for a couple of high valued targets, considered to be terrorists," Williams said. "When we got close to a Taliban check point, a remote detonation was set-off that killed my dog."
The eight pound explosive device detonated three feet away from Williams. Dinomt was in between the bomb, Williams and an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician.
"He actually saved my life; saved both [EOD Tech] of our lives," said Williams.
Williams suffered TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and shrapnel in his leg. He realizes that if it wasn't for Dinomt, he would not have been able to receive the Purple Heart or his 1st class crows (chevrons).
"Fortunately we're both [EOD Tech] still here," Williams said. "Every day forward, I take my dog with me. We don't leave our dogs, no matter what. When he was killed, I picked him up, put him in my sleeping bag and carried him about 500 meters in order to get to a medevac [medial evacuation]."
Williams is humbled to receive the Purple Heart.
"It means a lot to me," Williams said. "If you receive this award you're not normally alive to hold it. Because I'm still here, I'm able to move forward, teach future dog handlers, and continue to do my job, which means a great deal to me. I'll carry it with honor, pride, and the memory of my dog."
Receiving a Purple Heart is a tremendous honor for Williams, but he did not want the spotlight only on him. Other NAS Sigonella Sailors were also frocked.
"Congratulations to everybody that's here," Williams said. "This is a huge and great accomplishment. I always love to see people advance to whatever pay-grade. Good luck to your future endeavors!"
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