After graduating from Juneau-Douglas High School in 2003, Alec Haralovich enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served three tours of duty in the Iraq War, coming away from one with a Purple Heart after being wounded by an improvised explosive device.
While taking courses in international studies at Indiana University, Staff Sgt. Haralovich has remained a member of the Marine Corps Reserve. He was deployed last year for his fourth tour.
Last month, Haralovich’s actions during that tour saw him awarded a Silver Star Medal — the U.S. military’s third-highest award for valor.
Haralovich and his troops were ambushed while on patrol Oct. 4, and Haralovich was shot in the side.
“I went straight down,” Haralovich recounted. “It looked like I was seriously hurt, and my team medic came up to try to pull me out and treat me.”
But although Haralovich had been thrown to the ground by the force of the hit, he had avoided serious injury. The round that struck him did not penetrate his body armor. He ordered the medic back to cover.
“As he was pulling back, he was shot — grazed — in the thigh,” said Haralovich. Another Marine, he added, had his CamelBak water pouch blown off by another round.
Seeing his patrol was divided and pinned down by fire from the insurgents, Haralovich scrambled to a better position and cocked a shoulder-fired rocket, making himself an even bigger target, he said.
“I don’t know how I didn’t get hit again, but I didn’t,” Haralovich remarked. Once situated, he said, “I fired the rocket toward the enemy position,” destroying it.
Even after that close shave, Haralovich and his troops continued to pursue the insurgents for another two hours that day, he said.
Being shot in the side had felt like a “sledgehammer” hit him, Haralovich said, but he shrugged it off.
“I had some minor bruising,” said Haralovich. “I was fine. I was back on patrol the next day, no big deal.”
Haralovich’s mother, Barbara Shepherd, still lives in Juneau, where he grew up.
“I think he’s following his passion, and that’s what’s important to me,” said Shepherd of her son’s military service. “He’s very devoted to it, I think.”
Shepherd added, “Of course, it’s a constant worry.”
Haralovich described himself as honored more to serve with his fellow Marines than to receive an award for his “exceptional valor.” He was presented with the Silver Star at a ceremony in Indiana late last month.
“It’s very humbling to receive a prestigious award that I did, but ultimately, when you get down to it, it’s a little piece of ribbon,” Haralovich said. “So many of my guys did things probably on par to it, but I got recognized.”
Being deployed in a leadership role to augment the active-duty 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Afghanistan last year and serving alongside “the greatest Marines I’ve ever worked with,” Haralovich added, was “a greater honor to me than a Silver Star, or 10 Silver Stars.”
While Shepherd said keeping in touch with Haralovich while he is deployed has become progressively easier, thanks to social media websites, satellite phones and other technological advancements, she first heard about the incident for which her son would ultimately be awarded the Silver Star through his unit’s electronic newsletter.
“The commander wrote about it in the newsletter, talking about … him getting shot, taking two rounds, and the medic coming out to rescue him and getting shot in the leg,” Shepherd said. “I am reading this, cold, in the newsletter while he’s still over there, and I just about died. … He just kind of called me up sheepishly a couple days later saying, ‘Mom, you didn’t read the newsletter, did you?’”
According to Haralovich, while the version of the story with him being shot twice has propagated, he was only hit once. He said the bullet passed through his radio before being stopped by his body armor.
Haralovich spends much of his time either training or going to school in the Lower 48, but he occasionally gets a chance to visit Alaska.
“I try to do it at least once a year — the holidays and all that,” Haralovich said.
While Haralovich called Alaska “home,” once he is finished with school, he added, “I could see myself living in some other random place in the world, just as likely as living in Alaska or the Lower 48.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.