Bronze Star, second Purple Heart given to EOD Airmen

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Two explosive ordnance disposal Airmen from the 314th Civil Engineer Squadron received combat medals for their actions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Jan. 30 in a ceremony here.

Staff Sgt. Lawrence Lipinski was awarded the Bronze Star and Staff Sgt. Matthew Patnaude received his second Purple Heart for their actions while deployed with the Army's 101st Airborne at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq.

"They define the wingman concept; meeting the objective under the worst of circumstances," said Brig. Gen. Kip L. Self, the 314th Airlift Wing commander who presented the Airmen with their respective medals.

Bronze Star recipient Sergeant Lipinski disarmed more than 60 improvised explosive devices on 170 combat missions on his deployment to Kirkuk AB. This was his first deployment to Iraq.

On one of his missions, his team's vehicle suffered a direct hit by a roadside bomb.

"Being blown up is like being caught in a large wave in the ocean," Sergeant Lipinski said, who is a native of Rochester Hills, Mich. "You have no control of your body. When it's all done, you hope everything is still attached."

Sergeant Lipinski said he is proud of the job he did saving lives and keeping the highways of Iraq safe for U.S. convoys.

"If convoys can't get past an IED, they can't get supplies (to) bases or go train Iraqis," he said. "So freeing the routes of roadside bombs is integral to our mission there."

Of his three deployments supporting the war on terrorism, Sergeant Patnaude has been injured twice. While on his second deployment he sustained hearing damage from an improvised explosive devise.

Deployed to Iraq beginning in July 2006, Sergeant Patnaude was shot by a sniper Dec. 27, the day after his 24th birthday, while diffusing a roadside bomb on a main supply route outside Kirkuk AB. Sergeant Patnaude was flow medically evacuated to Balad Surgical Hospital, Iraq.

Sergeant Patnaude was awarded the Purple Heart the same day by Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces. Sergeant Patnaude was later flow to Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility, Germany, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Sergeant Patnaude's family traveled to visit him there from their hometown of Palmyra, N.Y.

"I rather be out there than sitting at home any day of the week," Sergeant Patnaude said. "I love my job."

While his parents are concerned for his safety, Sergeant Patnaude said his dad, "realizes its part of the job. He supports me."

Both Sergeant Lipinski and Sergeant Patnaude continue to recover and are performing limited duties.

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