5 NH National Guard soldiers awarded Purple Hearts

Apr. 11—CONCORD — On Jan. 8, 2020, Specialist Sarah Doiron was among the more than 1,000 U.S. military and coalition forces at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, when Iran launched a ballistic missile operation against U.S. forces.

On Sunday she and four fellow New Hampshire Army National Guardsmen of C Company, 3rd of the 238th Aviation Regiment (Medevac), wounded during the attack, were awarded Purple Hearts during a ceremony in Concord.

«It was a horrible experience to go through, but these are the people to go through it with,» said Doiron, of Derry. «It’s been a challenge, some memory issues, but all things can be fixed and worked on and finding a new way to deal with it. We lean on each other a lot.»

Doiron received her Purple Heart alongside Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan Shallow, medical evacuation pilot, of Goffstown; Sgt. Jackson McWade, flight paramedic, of Chelmsford, Mass.; and Specialist Caio Campos, of Nashua.

Sgt. Jacob Baughman, aircraft maintainer, also received a Purple Heart, but was unable to attend Sunday’s ceremony.

Once the pomp and circumstance ended, ready to greet Doiron with a big embrace was mom Julie. She and husband Maurice — better known as «Moe» — said they are very proud of their daughter, who always «knew she wanted to help people.»

«She doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but it means a lot to us for her to be recognized for what she went through there,» said Julie Doiron. «It’s a little hard to hear when they talk about the events of the night. We didn’t hear from her for hours after (it happened.) She is a brave young woman.»

The Purple Heart is the first and oldest U.S. military decoration. It is presented to service men and women who have been wounded or killed in action as a result of enemy action.

According to information provided by the New Hampshire National Guard, the night of Jan. 7, 2020, soldiers at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq received intelligence of a possible tactical ballistic missile launch from Iran.

Around 1:32 a.m. on the 8th, the initial missile impact was heard and seen less than 500 yards from the shelter that soldiers were located in. Moments later a missile hit a structure 100 yards away from where the soldiers were sheltering.

In a span of three hours, 11 missiles tipped with thousand-pound warheads struck the base, Maj. Gen. David Mikolaoities said.

«At least five were direct hits on or near the flight line, including (their) operations center and hangar,» said Mikolaities.

The impact caused metal shrapnel and concrete debris to be blasted over a 500-yard radius, with an additional shockwave damaging nearby housing units.

The soldiers from C Company, 3rd of the 238th Aviation Regiment (Medevac) suffered concussion injuries from the shockwave.

CWO Shallow said the biggest thing he remembers from the night is «everybody working together as a team.»

«We knew there was a possibility of something happening, we just didn’t know 100% for sure,» said Shallow. «Everyone got together, went back to our training and really just supported everyone at all times. It’s a little overwhelming to see everyone here, but it’s good.»

A sixth member of the unit, Capt. Brendan Meehan of Dover, received a Purple Heart while recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following the attack.

«He followed orders, made good decisions, and leaned on some of his more experienced soldiers,» said Mikolaities.

«At times that meant putting himself in harm’s way as he guided his soldiers further away from potential target areas.»

Capt. Meehan has returned to the air as a pilot, and attended Sunday’s ceremony.

«When the missiles were coming I was the last one to get in a bunker,» said Meehan. «Missile hit, I got thrown 50 feet from the concussive force of the blast and suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury).»

Meehan said he spent six months in Walter Reed, then underwent vision therapy for two years to reconnect his eyes to his brain.

«The connection was damaged,» said Meehan. «It’s been a journey. I’m happy everyone was OK.»

«It’s remarkable that he’s flying again,» said Greg Heilshorn, New Hampshire National Guard public information officer.

The Guard unit’s task force commander, Colonel Gregory Fix, said in a statement what stood out to him was how well trained the soldiers are and how they support each other.

«They made sure each other followed orders and stayed disciplined despite spending hours in bunkers,» said Fix in a statement. «Had their discipline eroded, there could have been deaths. They had concussion injuries, but they all lived. It is a credit to their unit and individual leadership.»

U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas took part in Sunday’s ceremony, while letters from U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan were read aloud.

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