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Sailor shot in Iraq awarded Purple Heart

As the Purple Heart was pinned on Petty Officer 1st class John Coulter, his thoughts turned to the man who saved his life.

Coulter, a bomb disposal expert, and Petty Officer 2nd class Jason Jewett, were assisting an Army unit March 15 in Mozul. The unit had suffered a lot of casualties and the two sailors were asked to help neutralize homemade terrorist bombs as they were discovered around the city.

It was only 7:30 a.m., but the unit had already responded to three calls.

“We had come under fire several times,” Coulter said.

On the way to a fourth call, Coulter said he and Jewett had a funny feeling because they recognized the location as a place they had been called to only the night before.

They were rolling out bomb disposal equipment, when they came under intense fire.

“The bullets were close, they were zinging and popping everywhere,” he recalled.

Then a bullet pierced his leg.

He signaled to Jewett that he’d been hit as he sank to the ground. His leg wouldn’t work.

“They call me a hero because I got shot,” he said, his voice choking with emotion as he recalled the incident in an interview Friday.

“My hero is the man who ran through the bullets to get me out,” he said.

Jewett hauled Coulter behind the truck and applied a tight bandage to slow blood flow until a medic arrived. Coulter was rushed to a hospital, with Jewett giving him encouragement all the way.

Cmdr. Martin Beck pinned a Purple Heart on Coulter’s chest in a ceremony Friday at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“Coulter has made a tremendous sacrifice. He literally spilled his blood on the battlefield,” Beck said.

The medal is given to members of U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed by enemy action. Beck said an application has been filed to obtain a special commendation for Jewett’s bravery.

Coulter serves with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 Detachment Seven, which Beck commands. Members of the detachment stood in full battle dress for the ceremonies.

“This is a significant award for his family and for the unit,” Beck said.

Brandy Coulter accompanied her husband to the ceremony. The couple have two children, Jacob, 5, and Brenden, 3.

Brandy Coulter said she was relieved her husband was able to phone her from the hospital and say he was going to be OK.

Sr. Chief Robert Zimmerman said Coulter was only off work for three weeks and could have used his injury as an excuse to get out of military duty.

“He’d paid his dues,” Zimmerman said. Yet, “He fought to get back to a crucial leadership role on the team.”

Beck said he couldn’t be prouder of the example Coulter sets.

“It’s in his character to do the right thing,” Beck said.

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