'The Salute Seen Around The World': Unconscious soldier salutes when awarded 'Purple Heart' in hosptial
San Antonio, Texas (NBC/KETK) — A salute by an Army Ranger — hospitalized with serious wounds after a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan — is warming the hearts of many people after being posted online.
Cpl. Josh Hargis’ commander was at a military hospital awarding the seemingly unconscious soldier a Purple Heart for his injuries, pinning the medal to the blanket covering him.
And that's when Hargis surprisingly raised his arm to salute — struggling with his doctors and medical tubes to do so.
The commander sent a picture along with a letter about the incident to Hargis’ wife, Taylor, writing that "grown men began to weep" at the sight of the salute.
Hargis' wife received the picture with a letter you can read below:
I received this pictures today along with a letter from the commander of the team Josh was a part of on the night of his injuries. A letter to explain to me what kind of man I have the privilege of being married to. He explained to me what happened and what was going on in the picture:
"Josh was seriously wounded as you know and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital. Josh was immediately pushed through a series of surgeries and emerged hours later into an intensive care unit here at our base in Afghanistan. Despite being in intense pain and mental duress, Josh remained alert and compassionate to the limited Rangers that were allowed to visit him bedside. Prior to Josh being moved to Germany for his eventual flight to America, we conducted a ceremony to award him with the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. A simple ceremony, you can picture a room full of Rangers, leaders, doctors, and nurses surrounding his bedside while the Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket. During the presentation the Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice. Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the Commander as is customary during these ceremonies. Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes, and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen. I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh's courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army."
Hargis was wounded October 6 when an Afghan woman detonated a suicide bomb vest, killing four members of his 3rd Army Ranger Battalion and wounding 12 other American soldiers, according to a report on the website of the soldier's hometown newspaper in Ohio, the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The story and picture were also distributed on the Guardian of Valor website, which called the picture the "the salute seen around the world."
Hargis, 24, is a 2007 graduate of of Dater High School on the city’s west side and attended the University of Cincinnati, NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati reported. He has since been moved from Afghanistan to Germany and onto San Antonio, Texas, the station said.
A reporter for another local station, WCPO, spoke to Hargis’ mother Laura Heitman, who said that Taylor and Josh Hargis are expecting their first child. Heitman also said she had recently talked to her son.
Her son, she said, “sounded amazing when I talked to him. He was in good spirits.”
Terri Wessel, who said she had taught Hargis in high school, told WCPO that the picture brought tears to her eyes.
“Seeing the picture of him saluting was the first I knew of him being injured,” Wessel told the station.”I teared up when I saw the picture but smiled at the same time as that picture summed up the type of man that Josh is. True American hero in my mind.”