Wounded, bandaged and hooked up to tubes in an Afghanistan intensive care unit, a U.S. Army Ranger, thought by hospital staff to be unconscious, heard his commander’s voice and addressed him with the iconic symbol of respect: a salute.
Josh Hargis, a Purple Heart recipient with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, was injured after 13 improvised explosive devices went off while he was conducting a mission in Afghanistan to capture a high value target, according to the website Guardian of Valor. Several members of the unit were killed by a woman wearing a suicide vest and others injured by the IEDs that went off afterward.
Hargis’ commander sent his wife, Taylor, a letter explaining what her husband endured along with a photo, which the Guardian of Valor is calling the “salute seen around the world.”
Taylor Hargis posted the note and photo on Facebook over the weekend, calling it a letter that details the “kind of man I have the privilege of being married to.”
The commander’s letter said that Hargis held on for two hours after being “seriously wounded” before making it to the hospital. Once there, he endured hours of surgery.
Before being transferred from Afghanistan to Germany where he would make his flight back to America, Hargis had a Purple Heart pinned on to his blanket in a ceremony, which included other Rangers, doctors and nurses at his bedside.
“During the presentation the [Ranger Regimental] Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice. Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the commander as is customary during these ceremonies,” the letter read. ”Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen.”
In this emotional moment, “grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh’s courage and character,” the letter continued. “The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my 10 years in the Army.”
It is unclear when exactly Hargis was injured in Afghanistan or what the extent of his injuries were.
Watch WHAM-TV’s report about Hargis’ incredible salute: