Sgt. Josh Hargis participates in last part of Warrior Walk

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 4, 2014 

With a little less than half a mile to go, Army Sgt. Josh Hargis, the soldier known for the “salute seen around the world,” made the participants of the Warrior’s Walk stop.

It was at that point he left the custom-built, hand-powered cycle he was using to travel and put on his new prosthetic legs.

He then marched with the group from near the Hampton Inn to the front door of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

It was the first time his mother Laura Heitman had seen him walk in person.

“It was very touching,” she said.

Hargis lost both legs from the knee down last October during a raid in southern Afghanistan involving members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Explosions from improvised explosive devices killed four soldiers and wounded others.

His brother-in-law Sgt. Patrick Griffith, who organized the 222-mile trek from Fort Stewart, Ga., to raise funds to support the Hargis family, also wasn’t surprised to see the wounded soldier walk the final distance.

“I didn’t think Josh would do anything less than that,” he said.

Hargis is receiving rehabilitation in San Antonio and arrived here for the last day of the walk that began Feb. 17.

Hargis, who was stationed at Fort Benning, did not speak to local media Tuesday.

Heitman was not surprised to see her son make the walk and said she was touched by the outpouring of support.

“He has made good progress and will continue to improve,” she said.

Hargis received worldwide attention for what he did during a Purple Heart ceremony.

At the time, he was sedated and in severe pain in an Afghanistan hospital following surgery to stabilize his wounds. There were more than 50 people in the room for the ceremony, a combination of military and medical personnel.

The Ranger regimental commander pinned the Purple Heart to Hargis’ blanket, then leaned down and whispered thanks to Hargis for his sacrifice. Military protocol dictates that the recipient salute after receiving the medal, but those present assumed Hargis was unconscious and unable to render a salute. But his arm, full of wrappings and tubes, emerged from the blanket and delivered a salute.

The commander wrote a letter to Hargis’ pregnant wife, Taylor, along with the photo. She posted it online.

Griffith said Tuesday that 11 people — friends and family — walked the entire 222 miles.

The walkers were greeted by fifth graders from Clubview Elementary waving American flags.

Griffith said he did not know how much money had been raised. “This whole thing is much bigger than any of us ever expected,” he said. “Everything about the walk was positive.”

As Hargis approached the museum, he saluted a group of veterans.

The crowd included several Rangers.

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett spoke to those gathered and told Hargis, “We are honored by your presence.”

He called Hargis “a great example for all of us.”

“Rangers never quit. Rangers lead the way,” Puckett said.

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