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Purple Heart to be awarded to Juneau Marine in Virginia

Posted: March 16, 2012 - 12:12am

A Purple Heart ceremony for U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Thomas Howard McRae is scheduled to take place March 23 at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Richmond Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Va.

Lt. Nicole M. Yuhas, a public affairs officer with the Marine Corps, told the Empire the award ceremony will be a more private affair rather than the standard Marine Corps award ceremony. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and the sergeant major of the Marines Corps, Michael P. Barrett, will be presenting the medal to McRae in his hospital bed.

Both of McRae’s parents, Timothy and Carolee Ryan of Juneau, will be attending the bedside presentation, as is McRae’s 3 1/2-year-old daughter Aaiden, sister Jessica Ryan, grandmother Sarah McRae of Juneau and uncle Tom of Washington, D.C. Carolee Ryan said many friends will also be attending.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those wounded or killed in action while serving in the U.S. military due to enemy-related injuries.

McRae, 29, an explosive ordnance disposal technician born and raised in Juneau, was wounded on Jan. 16 of this year when he was investigating an explosive threat on a Marine base in the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, and an improvised explosive device exploded under him.

He lost both his legs and his left arm and suffered injuries to his eyes and brain.

McRae was transferred to the Richmond Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center a couple of weeks ago after successfully undergoing multiple surgeries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

It was McRae’s second tour of duty in Afghanistan after three tours of duty in Iraq. He was assigned to EOD Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and deployed in October of 2011 from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina where he was stationed.

No one else was injured in the Jan. 16 incident.

Yuhas said that 19 of the Marines with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) were wounded in Afghanistan last year and three were killed.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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