With members of the 3rd Marine Regiment behind them, Cpl. Christopher A. Lewis, left, and Lance Cpl. Joshua D. Fincham received Purple Hearts yesterday in a short ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe. Giving Fincham his medal was squad member Lance Cpl. David Lee Battle. Both Lewis and Fincham were wounded while serving in Iraq.

21 Marines earn
Purple Hearts

The Kaneohe-based troops were
injured during combat in Iraq

Cpl. Christopher A. Lewis, 24, was wounded Oct. 30 in Fallujah, Iraq, when a suicide bomber drove into a convoy of Kaneohe Marines, killing seven.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Fincham of Virginia Beach, Va., was shot in the hip Nov. 13 during a 12-hour house-to-house clearing operation in Fallujah.

The two men -- members of Bravo and Charlie companies of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment -- received Purple Hearts yesterday at a short ceremony in front of the regimental headquarters building. Twenty-one Kaneohe Marines were awarded Purple Hearts for their combat injuries.

Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines are now safe in Kuwait after nearly four months in Iraq, participating in some of the fiercest battles. A Kaneohe spokesman said members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, will probably return to Okinawa within a month and be back in Hawaii by May.

During the Iraq deployment, 43 Kaneohe Marines and two Navy corpsmen from Pearl Harbor were killed.

In the ceremony, Bravo Company commander Capt. Jero Garcia, who returned to Hawaii on Tuesday night, pinned the medal on Lewis, of Handem, Conn. Afterward, Lance Cpl. David Battle, 20, who pinned the medal on buddy Fincham, described him as "the man."

"He kept up the morale of our unit," Battle said.

"I wouldn't be here, and there are other Marines who would say that," added Battle, a native of Montclair, Calif.

On Nov. 13, Battle and Fincham were members of Charlie Company's house-cleaning mission, which Marine officials thought would take four days. But within 12 hours, Charlie Company had covered two miles and cleared 27 houses.

"There were three of us in a stack when we went in," Fincham said. "Battle was behind me. ... I noticed holes in the ceiling, and that's when they started spraying us with machine gun fire and dropping grenades."

Fincham was able to drag another squad member, Lance Cpl. Robert Carter, into a closet to take cover. Outside, other squad members started a fusillade of covering fire.

"It was a miracle because they stopped firing long enough for me to carry Carter out of the house," Fincham said.

Battle said he was shot twice in his left leg during the ambush inside the house but was able to get out into the street. There, Fincham said, he was trying to place a pressure bandage around Battle's leg "when a grenade rolled up between us and then exploded" but apparently did not harm them.

Fincham said he thought at that point, "I am going to die if I don't get up and run."

He added, "I got up, and that's when I got shot in the hip."

Of the 13 Marines who began that house-clearing operation, 11 were wounded.

Fincham "didn't got there to free the Iraqi people," he said. "My war was to keep him (pointing to Battle) alive and those around me."

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