Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My younger brother Danny. I'm so proud.

My younger brother, Dan, has been Iraq and will be coming home soon. I won't go into all the details because I don't want to embarrass him. I'm just so happy he's coming home. My dad called today to tell me that he'll be home on Monday!

Dan, if you're reading this, I love you very much. I first realized what a wonderful person you are when you won Father LaPorta's pastor award! I thought then, what thirty years ago? And I believe now, that you are the best.

I'm so grateful that you are coming home to Jen, and the kids. I hope maybe someday you can visit us in Florida. I miss you, dearly.



Staff Sergeant Thomas D. Puente, United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the United States as a Tank Commander for Second Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, FOB Callahan, Iraq on 07 December 2008 during Operation Iraqi Freedom 07-09.
On the afternoon of 07 December 2008 at approximately 1700, SSG Puente commanded the lead M1A2 SEP of a routine two tank patrol to relieve elements conducting mounted counter IRAM observation posts in Muhallah 315 when his tank was struck by an explosively formed projectile. SSG Puente sustained significant wounds to his upper body and face as a result of shrapnel and debris. Despite his injuries, SSG Puente maintained his composure and continued to fight. Without regard for himself, SSG Puente led his crew, commanded his tank, and facilitated the maneuver of adjacent units orienting them into the best position to quell a secondary attack by the enemy. Moments following the blast, SSG Puente downplayed the seriousness of his injuries while reporting the status of his crew and tank. Aware that the nature of his injuries would require medical evaluation and that his tank sustained significant damage, SSG Puente refused immediate aid by his Loader and possessed the wherewithal to posture his stunned and disoriented crew in the best position to react to a potential complex ambush. Without hesitation, SSG Puente troubleshot an intercom malfunction, issued orders for his Driver to continue pressing through the enemy engagement area, directed his Loader to stay beneath his hatch in anticipation of a secondary explosion and designated new sectors of fire enabling his Gunner to reorient and scan aggressively for the enemy. SSG Puente’s immediate action and decisive leadership was the compelling factor that maximized his crew ability to stay in the fight. By keeping his Soldiers focused and damaged tank operational, SSG Puente effectively rendered the attack a failure and prevented the enemy from creating either a catastrophic loss of life or equipment. With his tank section separated by the engagement area, he acted quickly to help minimize the risk of each tank operating without the mutual support of the other. SSG Puente maneuvered his damaged tank to an adjacent avenue of approach that effectively denied the enemy both freedom of maneuver and an escape route to the south. He then guided reinforcements to his location and established blocking positions to isolate and secure the area to allow first responders to conduct recovery and post blast analysis. His quick decision making and situational awareness freed his platoon leadership to coordinate for additional support and prevented the enemy from exploiting the situation. SSG Puente refused to leave either his crew or tank for further medical treatment until he ultimately relented after the platoon Medic assessed his injuries.
His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment “Silver Lions,” The 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the United States Army.