5/6/2014 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Standing in a motor transportation lot, with his wife and fellow Marines, Lance Cpl. Gabriel R. Gehr, received the Purple Heart aboard Camp Pendleton, May 5, 2014. More than a year earlier on Nov. 20, 2013, Gehr sustained shrapnel injuries from an anti-tank rocket while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the deployment, Gehr worked alongside Georgian troops to retrograde equipment from Afghanistan. It was during a routine working-party, putting up canvas to conceal tents, when the rocket struck next to him. He sustained multiple wounds on the left side of his body and was medically evacuated.
Gabriel is now in California with his wife, Kaitlyn, and works as an electrical equipment system technician with Utilities Platoon, Engineer Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
“My wife is with me and I’m being awarded something [roughly] fifty thousand Marines received during [Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom],” said Gehr, a 21-year-old native of Delphos, Ohio. “I’m just one of those [awardees] that represent the ones who made it.”
Although Gabriel was modest when it came to the ceremony, his wife felt pride as she recalled receiving his first phone call.
“He called me from the hospital telling me he was injured. I was worried,” said Kaitlyn, who is also from Delphos. “Today was my first time in any kind of military ceremony. I’m very proud of him, not everyone gets to do this every day.”
“She started asking me on the phone, who, what, when and why, but I couldn’t give here an answer,” said Gabriel. “It’s something no husband wants to do to their wife, that’s for sure.”
At his ceremony, Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, commanding general, 1st MLG, pinned the medal on Gehr and spoke about the antiquity of the award, dating back to the Revolutionary War.
“I met [Coglianese] at [Navy Medical Center San Diego],” said Gehr. “He came to see me because I was one of his Marines. It was good to see him again and he gave me some of the history of the Purple Heart.”
Gabriel is no longer at the hospital, but continues to take physical therapy. Although he is not fully recovered, he is able to walk unaided and is working towards being able to run again.
“It’s challenging being back from Afghanistan,” said Gehr. “I’ve underwent a lot of physical therapy and medical appointments. I’d like to be back to normal, physically being able to do what I used to be capable of.”
Gehr plans to become a drill instructor when he is ready and is also thinking of becoming a commissioned officer later down the road.
“[Marines] are always taken care of,” said Gehr. “We’re always the few and the proud and motivated to do what’s right. You don’t find that out in the world too often.”