Detroit native Leroy Williams, Jr., who holds the rank of master-at-arms 1st Class in the U.S. Navy, received a Purple Heart during a frocking ceremony at Naval Air Station Sigonella. Williams, a newly-appointed petty officer 1st class, was presented the Purple Heart by Capt. Chris Dennis, NAS Sigonella commanding officer, for injuries sustained in Afghanistan.
Williams, who was part of the NAS Sigonella Military Working Dog Division, was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED), according to an article sent to the Michigan Chronicle by the Navy. The eight pound explosive device detonated about three feet away from Williams, killing his dog, Dinomt. They had been tasked with searching for hidden explosive devices.
In the article provided by the Navy, Williams said they’d been looking for some “high valued” targets, considered to be terrorists; and that Dinomt saved both his life and that of an explosive ordinance disposal technician. The dog was between the IED and Williams and the technician.
Williams, who suffered traumatic brain injury and shrapnel in his leg, said he was “humbled” to receive the Purple Heart, stating in the Navy article that those who receive it aren’t normally alive to hold it.
“Because I’m still here, I’m able to move forward, teach future dog handlers, and continue to do my job, which means a great deal to me,” he said. “I’ll carry it with honor, pride, and the memory of my dog.”
During the awards ceremony, Williams also congratulated the other NAS Sigonella sailors who were frocked.
According to Lt. Joe Painter of the Navy Office of Community Outreach, in certain circumstances an officer selected for promotion to the next higher grade may be allowed to be “frocked” and wear the rank devices of this higher grade.