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Soldier delivers 'salute seen around the world'

9:40 AM, Oct 16, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY)  Josh Hargis, whose special operations unit is based at Fort Benning, Ga., was wounded Oct. 6 when an Afghan woman detonated a suicide bomb vest in Panjwai in Kandahar Province and triggered a series of other explosive devices. 

The blast killed four members of Hargis' 3rd Army Ranger Battalion and wounded 12 other American soldiers.  Hargis, a 2008 graduate of Cincinnati's Gilbert Dater High School, went to a nearby military hospital. His numerous wounds called for him to hooked up to a breathing tube and other medical plumbing.  

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His right hand was heavily bandaged. That hand, his saluting hand, rested under red, white and blue blankets when his commanding officer came into his room to present Hargis with a Purple Heart.

"Josh was seriously wounded, as you know, and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital," Hargis' commander wrote Saturday to his wife, Taylor Hargis, who was in Columbus, Ga. Taylor Hargis went to Cyprus Lake High School in Fort Myers, Fla., and the couple married in June 2011.

Everyone in the room at the Afghan military hospital, more than 50 people, assumed the wounded soldier was unconscious, according to Taylor Hargis' Facebook post.  Yet, as the Purple Heart presentation began, Josh Hargis struggled to move his right hand and lift it into a saluting position. 

Military protocol calls for a soldier to salute when he receives the Purple Heart."Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm," according to the message Josh Hargis' commanding officer wrote to Taylor Hargis. 

He then "rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen."The Army Ranger is being moved to a military hospital in Germany and eventually will be hospitalized in the United States."I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day," the commander wrote. "Grown men began to weep, and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh's courage and character."

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