Jalalabad, Afghanistan (KSDK) - More than 40 Missouri National Guard members are spending the Fourth of July stationed in Afghanistan. It's their first Independence Day since a deadly attack on their base last April.
Twenty eight members of Missouri Agribusiness Development Team Six received medals for their courage under fire.
The team is an all-volunteer unit designed to help Afghani farmers. Although stationed at a forward operating base, they're a non-combat unit.
But that changed on April 15th.
"We were hit by a vehicle-borne IED. A Suicide bomber driving a vehicle into the wall," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Schicker. "The blast knocked me to the ground inside a concrete building."
Schicker says the base erupted into chaos. Taliban fighters killed an afghan soldier and threw grenades at Missouri National Guard members, starting fires that burned the team's gear and personal items.
One grenade landed feet away from Schicker, who says he was saved when another guardsman pulled him inside a building.
Schicker says the Missouri team handled the attack with bravery and skill.
"These kids, who have never been deployed before," said Schicker, "Their training kicked in and they repelled an attack that would have killed a lot of people."
Schicker is one of five team members who received the Army Commendation Medal with valor and one of 15 awarded a Purple Heart. It's the second time he was wounded in combat.
Schicker says the medals are a bittersweet reminder of one of the toughest days of his life and a means by which soldiers like those in his unit can begin to heal.
"It's an acknowledgement to that soldier that what they did was right and honorable," said Schicker. "Medals are medals but when it comes to the healing process you have to start with the mind and the best way to do that is a good pat on the back."
The attack on Schicker's base was one of 20 across Afghanistan that day. Amazingly, all the members of his unit survived.