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Local wounded soldier receives Purple Heart medal; visit from the President

PFC Darryl Wallace is continuing to make progress, medically speaking. In fact, family members say he may be fitted for a double prosthesis as early as next month.

The 23-year-old U.S. Army soldier from Thomson recently was bestowed the military's highest decorated honor - The Purple Heart - for his bravery during the war in Afghanistan. PFC Wallace, a 2003 graduate of Thomson High School, lost his right leg from the knee down and his left foot when the hummer he was driving struck an improvised explosive device on June 9.

"I'm ready to come home and do some hunting and fishing," PFC Wallace told his grandfather, Gene Wallace, who along with his wife, Edna and the soldier's son, Chase, just returned from another visit.

Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, along with PFC Wallace's wife, Tiffany, her mother, Margaret Higdon, her husband, Don and two close friends, Dwayne and Alicia Higdon, of Dearing, all attended an Aug. 10 ceremony at the hospital where he received the Purple Heart.

"Everybody there got a small Purple Heart from Army officials," said Mr. Wallace. "Darryl didn't say much. He's a pretty quiet fellow until you start talking about hunting and fishing."

"I told him that I was proud of him," said Mrs. Wallace. "He just looked at me and grinned."

"You could tell that he was pleased to have his family and some of his close friends there with him when he received the Purple Heart," added Mrs. Higdon.

Army officials also presented family and friends of PFC Wallace with shirts, hats and airborne flags.

"They really made us feel a part of it, too," said Mrs. Higdon.

Despite being honored in such a way by Army officials, PFC Wallace still doesn't feel like a hero.

"He says he's not a hero, but was just there doing his job," said Mrs. Higdon. "We all see him as a hero and so does the Army."

During two recent visits, Mrs. Higdon explained that PFC Wallace feels he's still supposed to be with his unit. "He's very close to his Army buddies," she noted.

At least two of those buddies have been communicating with him since his hospitalization and have plans to visit him when they can.

"After the Purple Heart ceremony, Darryl gave Chase a ride in his wheelchair and popped a wheelie," said PFC Wallace's sister-in-law, Heather Odell, of Harlem, who also witnessed the presentation.

The Purple Heart presentation isn't the only big thing that has happened in PFC Wallace's life of late. He recently was visited by President George Bush.

"I think he enjoyed the president's visit," Mr. Wallace said. "But there again, Darryl is quiet and didn't say much about it to us."

President Bush thanked PFC Wallace for his service to America during wartime. The president also shared some lighter moments at PFC Wallace's bedside, said family members.

PFC Wallace, who has undergone several surgeries and is expected to have more, had been feeling stronger and working out in rehab until recently contracting a highly contagious virus.

"He's been battling that problem for the past two weeks," said Mrs. Higdon, noting that his wife has constantly been with her husband every since he has returned to the United States. "She's a big help and a lot of support to Darryl."

The family expressed appreciation for the cards and prayers they have received.

"Everybody has been so nice to all of us," said Mrs. Wallace. "We appreciate all of the prayers for Darryl and the kindness that everybody has shown us."

Web posted on Thursday, August 23, 2007

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