TWIN FALLS — President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush personally awarded a Purple Heart to a former Idaho high school track star who lost both his legs in an explosion in Iraq.
Marine Cpl. Travis Greene, who graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1999 and was given a track scholarship to Boise State University, received the medal Wednesday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he is being treated.
Greene's parents, Terry and Sue Greene, have been visiting their son daily since mid-December. Terry Greene said nurses adjusted his son's pain medication before the president's visit.
"They turned down Travis' medicine so he could be awake," Terry Greene said Thursday in a phone interview with The Times-News of Twin Falls. "Travis offered his hand to President Bush and President Bush shook his hand. He presented Travis with his Purple Heart and said he was very proud of him and proud of everything they'd done.
"He genuinely cares about these boys and so does Mrs. Bush. He said if there's anything I need, just give the word. The first lady is just awesome. She shook my hand and gave me and Sue a hug."
"It was an honor," said Sue Greene. "They're just genuine people. He gave me a hug and thanked me for being strong."
Travis Greene has had more than 100 blood transfusions since being wounded in Iraq.
"He's had surgeries every other day and it's taken a toll on the man," Terry Greene said. "He's had emergency surgery twice at his bedside because he was too unstable to move. The doctors tell us he is the most critical patient on the intensive care unit. He's a fighter."
Terry Greene said his son is still on a ventilator and will probably have to go on dialysis soon because of the strain on his kidneys.
The 24-year-old, in his third tour of duty in Iraq, was part of a team of Marines who on Dec. 7 were evacuating other Marines who had been injured in an explosion. During that effort, a second explosion occurred. Three other Marines and one Navy corpsman also lost one or both of their legs in the blast.
Besides the Purple Heart, Greene also was presented with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for actions in another incident on Nov. 1 in Ar Ramadi.
On that day, a vehicle supporting Greene's unit was hit by an improvised explosive device. An ambush consisting of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and two more IEDs followed.
During the attack, Greene left his vehicle and returned fire while directing his driver to move the vehicle closer to the casualties. After his own vehicle was hit with an IED, Greene repositioned it and attempted to reach one of the support team's casualties by foot before being forced back by enemy fire. He also disabled another IED.
"Cpl. Greene's initiative, courage and devotion to duty reflected credit upon himself and upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service," according to officials with the Navy and Marine Corps.
"I just was speechless," Terry Greene said. "I just couldn't believe what he had done. He was truly a hero that day."
The Greenes said it's difficult to see their athlete son without legs in a hospital bed.
"You sit here day after day and you go in and see him and it's kind of depressing," Sue Greene said. "We have our moments. When the doctors talk pretty frank to you, it's a hard pill to swallow."