Injured Dubuque marine awarded Purple Heart - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Injured Dubuque marine awarded Purple Heart

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Lance Corporal Christopher Billmyer lost both legs in Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Billmyer was hit by an IED Oct. 23 in Afghanistan. Field medics had to amputate both of his legs.

On Oct. 30, the military awarded him the Purple Heart in a bedside ceremony at the military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he is recovering.

"For lack of places to put it, they sort of laid it on his chest," his father Jim Billmyer said. "We're just very proud of him."

Billmyer's father said family members weren't present when his son awoke from his medically-induced coma and learned about the loss of his legs.

"We talked with the hospital staff about that, and they said that there wasn't sort of a moment or a presentation. It's just sort of a self-discovery," Jim Billmyer said. "We came in one morning and he was aware."

He said his son is staying positive as he recovers.

"We're not leading Christopher. He's leading us in this process," Billmyer said. "He understands his mission now is to get better and be able to, ultimately, to walk, and so he's doing everything he can. He participates."

The community is participating, too, Jim Billmyer said, through "cards and letters and prayers."

Several local fundraisers are also in the works.

American Trust and Savings Bank has established a Christopher Billmyer Fund. Anyone interested can donate at any of the branches.

The Dubuque Fighting Saints hockey team is donating a portion of its ticket sales from the November 24 home game.

"These funds really would be strictly for Christopher and to support him," Jim Billmyer said. "Ideally, you know, what we want to do is get him up and running and want him independent, and that's what he wants."

The family has already paid a price.

"As one of the generals said at the Purple Heart ceremony, 'you gave to us, you provided us one of your most precious gifts - your son. So we'll take care of it,'" Jim Billmyer said.

Now is the recovery phase, he said. Next comes rehabilitation, which could be at any number of top hospitals in the nation, although he said he wouldn't mind if it were closer to home, such as one hospital option in Minneapolis.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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