First Purple Heart in Gulf War Going To Wounded Navy Medic
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Navy medic wounded by Iraqi shrapnel during an exchange of fire across the Kuwaiti border will be the first recipient of a Purple Heart in the Persian Gulf war, officials said.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Clarence D. Conner, 21, of Banning, was recovering Sunday after a jagged piece of metal was removed from his right shoulder.
″I’m very proud of him,″ said Florence Sanders, 78, who, with her husband, Clarence Fritz Sanders, raised Conner.
″All I was thinking about was whether he was all right,″ she said.
Mrs. Sanders said that on hearing news reports Saturday about a Navy corpsman being injured ″I got a funny feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t sleep all night. But then the next morning they called to say he was OK.″
A cousin, Judy Zimmerman, from Cheney, Wash., said the whole family was proud of Conner.
″He’s going back with his unit at his request,″ Zimmerman said. ″I know he pleaded with his commanding officer to send him back to his unit.″
Conner was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton when he was injured Friday, Navy Cmdr. James Noone said from Washington, D.C.
Conner was assigned to a Marine Corps unit because naval personnel provide all medical services for the Marine Corps. He was wounded when the Marine unit traded gunfire with Iraqi troops across the Kuwaiti border.
Conner will receive the award when he returns to the United States. The Purple Heart is a decoration awarded to soldiers wounded or killed in action.
Jonathan Sanchez and Conner have been friends since sixth grade. ″He’s the best friend anybody would want. He’s always willing to help you out,″ Sanchez told The Press-Enterprise.
Sanchez last saw his friend in August, before Conner left for Saudi Arabia.
″He was pretty sad and upset,″ said Sanchez. ″He was real scared at first but then being over there and getting used to it ... now he’s really gung-ho.″