Hammond soldier Doug Rachowicz awarded Purple Heart

May 4, 2012 6:12:10 PM PDT
A northwest Indiana soldier received one of the military's highest honors Friday.

Specialist Doug Rachowicz of Hammond is the lone survivor of an attack that killed four others in his vehicle in Afghanistan back in January. Friday, he was awarded the Purple Heart.

It was a roadside bomb that took the lives of those four soldiers and left Specialist Rachowicz seriously injured. Friday, he dedicated his medal to his fallen friends and their families.

The Purple Heart, established by General George Washington, was pinned proudly to Rachowicz's chest. It is the oldest of military honors.

The proud soldier's thoughts quickly turned to the friends he wished could be there.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about them and their families," said Rachowicz.

It was four months ago when Rachowicz nearly died after his army Vehicle in Afghanistan was struck by a roadside bomb.

"To be perfectly honest about it, I don't remember anything about it," Rachowicz said. "I remember the day before. I remember getting my truck ready. I don't even remember waking up that morning, leaving out. I don't remember any part of it."

Rachowicz was severely wounded and four other Indiana Guardsmen were killed.

Specialists Christopher Patterson, Brian Leonhardt, and Robert Tauteris Jr., and Staff Sergeant Jonathan Metzger.

Friday, the parents of Christopher Patterson attended the ceremony in Valparaiso.

"It is bittersweet that our son couldn't be here, because he would have loved to have been here supporting Doug," said Mary Patterson. "We just know he's up looking down on us. And watching over us."

Specialist Rachowicz spent nearly four weeks, including his 30th birthday, in a coma. The blast had shattered the bones in his face, ribs, and pelvis.

There have been multiple surgeries and months of grueling rehab.

"This came much sooner than we would have thought, because we thought his road would have been a little bit longer," said mother Kathy Rachowicz. "He's a fighter, and he was determined to get home as quickly as possible."

Rachowicz's leg and back remain severely injured, but this father of two with a third on the way says he is ready to tackle whatever comes next.

"I'm definitely blessed," said Rachowicz. " Without the grace of God, there's no way I'd be standing here today."

More surgeries may be in Rachowicz's future.

A fundraiser is being held Saturday at Wicker Park in Highland, Indiana ,between 11 and 7. It is part of a busy weekend for Rachowicz. On Sunday he and his fiancee are getting married.

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