By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
Grissom Air Reserve Base —
Capt. E. Markus Trouerbach proudly received the Purple Heart commendation in a ceremony Friday morning at Grissom Air Reserve Base, as his wife and fellow Marines looked on.
For Trouerbach, 44, the medal has been a long time coming.
Wounded during a 2008 firefight at Nuristan, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, Trouerbach initially refused the commendation.
“I possibly called the officer a bunch of names,” Trouerbach recalled, as he recounted being approached shortly after he awoke in a military aid station. “I didn’t want it.”
Other servicemen weren’t as willing to let his record of service go, and when Trouerbach arrived at Grissom to begin his current deployment with the Marine Corps Reserve Detachment 1 Communications Company, he said they found the record of his proposed commendation in his medical records.
In August, his Purple Heart was approved, and Friday, Brig. Gen. Roger Machut, the commanding general of the 4th Marine Corps Logistics Group, was on hand to present the medal to Trouerbach.
“Sadly, many of these that I give are given away posthumously,” Machut said to Trouerbach. “I’d much rather give these in person.”
Trouerbach had his own experience recently with a posthumous Purple Heart recipient, when he was picked to present a Purple Heart to the family of Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell, who was killed Sept. 15 in Afghanistan.
“Most of the time experience with Purple Hearts are not positive, are not good,” Trouerbach said. “As a Marine, you try to adapt and move on.”
The details of what happened to Trouerbach on Oct. 29, 2008, bear remembering though.
Located at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by mountains, the base at Nuristan was a perfect target for Taliban mortar fire.
On a day when it was his duty to guard an embedded New York Times reporter and photographer, Trouerbach heard the distinct sound of mortar rounds being fired.
He jumped on top of the photographer, but one of the rounds landed about 10 feet away and blew him “backwards and full of shrapnel,” Trouerbach said. “The next thing I know I’m waking up in the aid station.”
He’s had back problems since, and the attack also left him with a brain injury and other problems. He’s still in the service, however, four years after being wounded.
His wife, Charlie, said he’s “a proud man, a proud Marine,” and he’s especially proud of his work with the Homes for Wounded Warriors program.
“He doesn’t feel like he deserved this, because he walked away,” she said. “It’s something that he battles with.”
Trouerbach started his more than 25-year Marine Corps career as an enlisted Marine in April 1987. With both active-duty and Reserve experience, he served as a radio operator, communication center operator, satellite communications operator, amphibious assault vehicle operator, aviation electrician, aerial observer and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter machine gunner.
Trouerbach’s military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor with three awards, Combat Action Ribbon, Joint Meritorious Unit Citation, Navy Aerial Observer Wings, the Navy and Marine Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the NATO Service Medal, the National Defense Medal with two awards, the Korean Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the Good Conduct Medal with three awards, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Marine Corps Reserve Medal, Sea Service deployment ribbon with seven awards, Navy unit commendation ribbon, and Marine Corps unit commendation.
Scott Smith can be
reached at 765-454-8569 or at