Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lejeune Marine awarded Silver Star during change of command ceremony

The 2nd Marine Division commander’s last act as leader of the over 24,000 Marines was to award one of them the Silver Star at an elaborate change of command ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune Thursday morning.

At quite possibly the largest ceremony to take place on Lejeune this year, 5,000 of the 24,000 total 2nd Marine Division Marines bid farewell to their commander of two years, Maj. Gen. John Toolan — but not before he had the opportunity to award one of the Marines, Cpl. Jason Hassinger, the Silver Star for his heroic acts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan Jr. shakes hands with Cpl. Jason M. Hassinger after presenting citation and Silver Star medal during the 2nd Marine Division change of command ceremony at W.P.T. Hill Field Thursday.
Don Bryan/The Daily News

During a security patrol in northern Marjah, Afghanistan, Hassinger’s squad became engaged in machine gun fire, and Hassinger took four shots to the chest of his personal protective equipment. Hassinger disregarded his injuries and calmly and fearlessly directed his team to overtake the enemy. He repeatedly refused medical evacuation until he finally collapsed from his wounds, according to the citation signed by the Secretary of the Navy.

“By his decisive actions, bold initiative, and complete dedication to duty, Cpl. Hassinger reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps,” the citation read.

“I’m shocked,” Hassinger told The Daily News after the ceremony. “It’s still sinking in ... I just did what my fallen sergeant, Sgt. Garrison, told me to do.”

Hassinger added that he felt he didn’t deserve the award, and that Garrison was the one who truly deserved the award.

“Sgt. Garrison did things for us every day over there, and if it wasn’t for him there would be a whole squad of us who wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Hassinger was awarded the medal by Toolan just before the commander relinquished responsibilities to Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, who comes to Camp Lejeune from the U.S. Africa Command, where he served as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans.

Toolan spoke of Hassinger’s courageous acts during his speech, calling it the “the kind of heroism that makes it a little hard to leave these guys.”

“Courage is being able to act in the face of fear,” Toolan said. “Imagine every single day, every patrol, (the Division Marines) are out there doing that.”

After the passing of the colors to signify the transfer of authority and responsibility from the old commander to the new, Lukeman spoke briefly to the crowd about his and his family’s excitement about being at Camp Lejeune, as well as his plans for his next two years at the helm of 2nd Marine Division.

Brig. Gen. James W. Lukeman, left, takes the colors from Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan Jr. during the 2nd Marine Division change of command ceremony Thursday at W.P.T. Hill Field at Camp Lejeune.
Don Bryan/The Daily News

“To the Marines and sailors of 2nd Marine Division, I want you to know I’ll do everything I can to ensure you continue to get the best training, the best equipment, the best leadership — that we take care of your families — so we can continue to do whatever the nation asks of us, and continue to be the finest fighting force on the face of the Earth,” he said.

August 24, 2012 7:12 AM

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