Three Marines from Fla. awarded Bronze Stars for Iraq service
Associated Press Posted September 20 2004, 7:48 AM EDT
WEST PALM BEACH -- Three Florida Marines were awarded Bronze Star medals for heroism under fire after they returned home from Iraq.
The 4th Air/Naval Gunfire Liaison Company in suburban West Palm Beach held ceremony Sunday to honor three of its own _ Staff Sgt. Derrick Leath, 30; Maj. James Purmort, 34; and Staff Sgt. Andre Rivera, 29.
Dressed in crisp desert camouflage, Purmort recalled the April siege of a compound in central Iraq that held about 80 U.S. and coalition troops and was in danger of being overrun by insurgents loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
From a base about a mile away that was also under sniper and mortar fire, Purmort took battle reports from the compound, gathered information on enemy positions and directed precision attacks from U.S. gunships and fighter jets.
Going without sleep for 60 hours, Purmort also helped direct a rescue mission that successfully evacuated the base with armored personnel carriers.
``It would have been really bad if it fell under their terms,'' said Purmort, an insurance agent and football coach at Sarasota High School in his civilian life.
Leath, of Coral Springs, braved enemy fire while directing air attacks from his perch on the roof of a six-story building in a besieged compound in south-central Iraq. Leath's team rushed into the base as it was being evacuated and in danger of falling to the Mahdi Army, al-Sadr's militia.
Rivera, of Boynton Beach, declined to be interviewed.
``I would give this medal and all of my medals back if it would bring one Marine home who has lost his life,'' Leath said.