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Georgia Baptist soldier awarded Purple Heart

 

Hall Family

Georgia Baptist Brian Keith Hall was awarded the Purple Heart by his Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush Oct. 8. Standing next to Hall is his wife, Jessica, and nine-month-old daughter, Madeline. In the background is first lady Laura Bush. Hall received the award following a Sept. 13 attack which left him with a severe head injury.

Brian Keith Hall was not permitted to take many earthly possessions with him to the war torn county of Iraq, so he attempted to choose wisely those few things he would pack for his trip, but among the things he took were his Bible and his baptismal certificate.

The Bible became a source of encouragement and comfort to him just as he anticipated. The baptismal certificate was a constant reminder of his salvation experience and subsequent baptism at Calvary Baptist Church in Marietta when he was nine years old.

Brian was born in Charleston, S.C. and grew up in a military family. His dad made a career of serving in the United States Air Force. Brian stated, “As I was growing up I was taught to have pride in my country.”

As a young man Brian met Jessica Sawatski through mutual friends, fell in love and the two were married in Jessica’s church, First Baptist of Lithia Springs, on May 25, 1996. Brian was employed as a plumber when the terrorist attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 and felt strangely compelled to do whatever he could to insure that there would be no further attacks upon our country.

 

Best of the best

Hall almost immediately enlisted in the United States Army and in January of 2002 was in basic training at Fort Benning. After three months of basic training the young soldier was sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for AIT (Advanced Individual Training).

For 16 weeks he received intensive training as a combat medic. Hall explained, “As a combat medic you are one of the men on the line with all the other soldiers until a medical need arises, then you put your training as a medic into use.”

After almost four months of intensive training Hall returned home to assume a rather normal civilian life, but became a part of the Georgia Medical Command Unit of the National Guard. However, in February of 2004 the proud young soldier signed up to go to Iraq with the 108th Cavalry, a military unit he describes as “the best of the best.”

J. Gerald Harris

Jessica and Brian Hall were four months shy of their sixth wedding anniversary when Brian enlisted in the Army. Brian Hall eventually joined the 108th Calvary and was deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2005.

The proud patriot was finally deployed on Jan. 3, 2005, just two weeks before the birth of his daughter, Madeline. He rushed home from Fort Stewart, but was two hours too late to see Jessica give birth to their first child.

There was much additional training needed to face the kind of unconventional war Hall was destined to confront in Iraq. He had to learn how to detect IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) at Fort Stewart near Hinesville. There was the required desert training in California and the “go to war” classes back at Fort Sam Houston.

Hall finally got to Kuwait on May 17 and had less than two weeks to get acclimated to the 128-degree daytime temperatures. The thermometer in Iraq registered almost the same kind of midday heat, perhaps 3 or 4 degrees less, than what he experienced in Kuwait.

In Iraq Hall’s unit set up their base for operations in Mahmudiyah, a town about 20 miles south of Baghdad, and began to fulfill their mission of helping maintain freedom for the Iraqi people. The Powder Springs resident said, “The people of Iraq were treated lower than dogs, but now they are free. I believe we did a great work over there. I not only treated our soldiers, but I helped the children of the country. Mothers would bring their children to us and we provided medical care for them.”

Hall commented, “We always had a prayer before we started out on patrol and everyone in our unit participated. In fact, when I was on patrol I talked to the Lord constantly.”

On Sept. 13 as Hall and his fellow soldiers were on a mission in their humvee an IED was detonated and the passenger side of the vehicle crushed the young medic who was seated next to the door. The blast threw him behind the driver and the gunner fell on top of him. “The lights went out for me. I didn’t remember anything until two weeks later when I woke up in Walter Reed Army Hospital in the U.S.” Hall explained.

 

J. Gerald Harris

Recovery and recognition

A Black Hawk helicopter immediately came to take Hall to a trauma center at a Baghdad hospital where the U.S. Army provides great medical care. Within hours he was flown to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

On the night of the malicious explosion Jessica got a call from the Department of Defense. The caller stated, “Jessica, your husband has had a severe head injury. We don’t know if he will survive.”

The physicians at the Landstuhl hospital performed two operations on Hall during a four-day period of time before sending him to the Walter Reed Hospital near Washington where he was reunited with Jessica.

While at Walter Reed, Hall received a visit from his Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush. Hall said of the president, “He was so kind, so comforting. He kept calling me ‘son.’ He is the kind of person you would meet in church.”

Hall received the Purple Heart, a medal awarded in the name of the president of the United States, on Oct. 8 for his bravery and for being wounded in action.