By UT3 Drew Verbis, NMCB 133
BU3 Daniel Blount (left) and EO3 Steven Thelusma, NMCB 133, Task Force Anchor, receive the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during a mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Photo by UT3 Drew Verbis
A formation of Seabees stood at attention on Camp Krutke, Afghanistan, as two members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, Task Force Anchor, received Purple Hearts for wounds sustained during a mission in Helmand Province.
Standing proudly in front of the Stars and Stripes, Builder 3rd Class Daniel Blount and Equipment Operator 3rd Class Steven Thelusma received the award from Brig. Gen. David L. Weeks, Commander, 411th Engineer Brigade, Joint Task Force Empire.
Both recipients suffered injuries when their convoy was struck with an improvised explosive device while conducting missions outside the wire.
Blount, serving his second deployment to Afghanistan, experienced the attack while his MRAP was traveling at low speed through rough terrain.
“It’s difficult to explain but it felt like a long blink,” Blount said. “The explosion knocked the gunner out of his turret and right onto me. I literally caught him. My first reaction was to check on his condition and then immediately attend to my shipmates. I think we’re fortunate.”
“Afterward the skipper telephoned my wife,” added Blount. “He let her know that I was going to make it through this. That’s really when it all sunk in.”
Thelusma, also serving his second deployment to Afghanistan, was operating an armored tractor trailer when his vehicle was struck.
“All I can say is that I sincerely feel honored to receive this award. There’s nothing we could have done to prevent [the attack],” said Thelusma. “But I do think that training played an important role in the way we responded and pushed through a dangerous situation.”
The two Seabees are expected to recover and complete their deployment in Afghanistan.
“This is such a prestigious award,” said Blount. “So few have it and I feel humbled. I don’t take this for granted.”
Once called the ‘Badge of Merit,’ the Purple Heart is the military’s oldest award dating back to President George Washington.