By 2nd Lt. Rebekah Malone
Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – In a special awards ceremony, Louisiana National Guardsman Spc. Alexas M. James received the Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge at Fort Polk’s Warrior Family Support Center Polk in Leesville, April 25.
Brig. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the LANG, told James his actions to join after 9/11 were a demonstration of one courageous step after another.
“We are tremendously indebted to you as a nation and as a state for what you have done for us. There’s no way we can ever repay you, other than to try to take care of you and your family in the best way we know how,” said Curtis.
On December 11, 2012, James was serving as the gunner of his vehicle for his unit, the 1086th Transportation Company out of Bunkie, when they were attacked by small arms fire in Afghanistan. For his actions, he received the Combat Action Badge. The award was approved just two days before James was injured by an improvised explosive device that hit his vehicle on April 9.
Now at Fort Polk recovering from his injuries, James’ mind is on one thing, getting back to Afghanistan.
“It’s hard because I didn’t want to leave Afghanistan. Our company motto is one team one fight. I felt like I let my brothers and sisters down because I’m not there with them still in the fight,” said James. “That’s been the hardest part about it because I still want to … come back home as one family.
“I’ve been in touch every day,” he continued. “They tell me how much they miss me over there … and wish I was there with them.”
James joined the National Guard in 2004, three years after graduating from Avoyelles High School. He served the state during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill response and Hurricane Katrina, in addition to his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“The National Guard has been great to me. It changed my life around and I like being a part of something. It made me a better man,” he said.
James was surprised at the number of people that came to the ceremony.
“I didn’t know all these people were going to show up. It was a really big honor to receive this [award],” he said. “It really made me feel good inside that so many cared and took their time to come out.”
In closing, James’ mind went right back to where this started, Afghanistan.
“Keep praying for my unit in Afghanistan,” he asked.
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first American award made available to the common Soldier. It is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
The Combat Action Badge is awarded in special recognition to Soldiers who personally engage the enemy, or are engaged by the enemy during combat operations.