This is the inspirational image of Army Ranger Josh Hargis that has gone viral. Hargis suffered serious leg injuries while four of his unit were killed after a suicide bomb attack during an operation where Hargis’ 3rd Ranger Battalion was trying to apprehend a “high value target” in Panjwai, Afghanistan, reports Guardian of Valor.
Hargis received a Purple Heart award for his bravery, and what happened during his bedside award ceremony at the hospital made grown men weep and drew national coverage.
Here’s what you need to know about this American hero and his inspirational salute:
1. Hargis’ CO Called the Salute the ‘Greatest Event I Have Witnessed in the Army’
With Hargis laid up in hospital, he was to be awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery during the incident. When his injuries were stabilized by doctors, a ceremony of around 50 people was held at his bedside. With the group believing that Hargis was unconscious, he shocked the room by raising his arm in salute as his commanding officer pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket.
The picture was posted on Facebook by his wife, Taylor Hargis, and has been referred by Guardian of Valor as “the salute seen around the world.”
Hargis’ commanding officer said in a letter to Taylor, which included the photo:
I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh’s courage and character.
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 ten years in the Army.
In the emotional letter, his commanding officer also says:
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. 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.
2. His Wife Put the Photo on Facebook and It Went Viral
On October 12, Taylor Hargis posted the photo and note from Hargis’ commander on Facebook. It garnered nearly 6,000 shares on her Facebook page. By Wednesday, October 16, the story was on Good Morning America and spreading like wildfire across the Internet.
3. Hargis’ Broken Femur Nearly Prevented Him From Joining the Army
CBS Ohio reports that Hargis had a skiing accident in his teens where he broke his femur bone. His mother, Laura Heitman, told the station: “It took him a long time to get into the Army after high school because he had a skiing accident and broke his femur, and they wouldn’t accept him.”
In the meantime, she says, Hargis worked as a server at Brio restaurant in Newport, Kentucky, never giving up his dream of becoming a US Ranger. His Facebook page lists him as working at Coleman Lumber Company Inc. and that he studied business at the University of Cincinnati.
Laura Heitman, speaking to Newsnet5, said that: “He wanted so bad to be a Ranger. After three or four times, he wrote to the Surgeon General and got accepted from the Surgeon General. After he went to Fort Benning, they asked him to join the Rangers right out of boot game. It was a great honor.”
4. His Wife, Taylor, Has Said She He’s Pregnant
In a touching interview on NBC Nightly News , Taylor Hargis revealed that she is pregnant with the couple’s first child. The touching interview saw Taylor Hargis tell the nation: “I’m very fortunate that he’s here. I’m fortunate that he’s still alive and that we still get to have our life together.”
5. His Sister, Angela, is Also in the Army
Hargis’ sister, Angela, is stationed in Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, Texas. She wrote about her brother’s recovery on her Facebook page:
I’m so happy that my little brother is coming to Texas. It’ll be nice to be able to be with him through his recovery. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and kept him in your thoughts and prayers. It truly means a lot. Josh is so strong and I know he’s going to do great.