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Injured soldier aches to return


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POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Schofield Barracks soldier wants to return to Iraq to complete his 12-month tour after recuperating from a grenade wound.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Pennoni, 28, was just beginning his third Iraqi combat tour when he was wounded by shrapnel from a grenade while on a night foot patrol in the city of Ad Dawr, south of Kirkuk, on Nov. 18.

He is one of 14 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade awarded a Purple Heart for their injuries since the unit arrived in Iraq in October.

The Army said that Iraqi soldiers detained an Iraqi national on a motorcycle who tested positive for black powder a day earlier, and continued to search for a second suspect on the following day.

Pennoni's patrol had searched the area, which had been the location of an earlier small-arms firefight.

“;My patrol was headed back to our vehicles when someone threw a grenade,”; said Pennoni, a howitzer section leader with the 3rd Brigade's Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery.

Another solder also was injured. He was treated for his injuries and returned to duty. Also injured in the blast was an Iraqi police officer who was on patrol with the 15 U.S. soldiers.

Fragments from the grenade peppered Pennoni's lower back and both his legs, and fractured his left elbow.

On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, former commander of the 25th Division now leader of all Army forces in the Pacific, pinned a Purple Heart medal on Pennoni's chest while Pennoni's wife, Juliet, looked on.

In his three combat tours in Iraq, Pennoni said this was his closest call.

In honoring his service and sacrifice, Mixon said that Pennoni is an example of the type of noncommissioned officers who help lead today's Army.

Noting that the Army leadership has set his year as one honoring all noncommissioned officers, Mixon said he has asked both the state Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle to declare June 13 - the Army's 234th birthday - a day to recognize the achievements of soldiers like Pennoni.

He was the third soldier from the 7th Field Artillery Regiment to be wounded since the unit arrived in Iraq in October.

On Dec. 31, the artillery unit suffered its first death when Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter, 20, of Chester Heights, Pa., died in Balad of wounds suffered when he was shot by enemy forces in Tikrit.

Pennoni, who has been in the Army for the past eight years, was assigned to the 25th Division in 2002. In January 2004, he was sent to Iraq for the first time with 2nd Brigade Combat Team. When the 3rd Brigade was ordered to Iraq in October 2006, Pennoni found himself in Kirkuk for the second time.

Pennoni said once his rehabilitation is completed he is ready to rejoin his unit.

“;If I can heal in time,”; he added, “;I'd love to go back.”;

Pennoni plans to leave the Army after completing his enlistment next year and return home to Lansing, Mich., where he wants to attend college and earn a degree in accounting and finance.

“;That's the reason I joined the Army in the first place,”; said Pennoni, referring to GI Bill, which would pay for his college tuition.