Fort Leavenworth Sara Jean-Baptiste already knew her husband was her hero, but she was glad to see him recognized on Wednesday by others.
Chief Warrant Officer Ari Jean-Baptiste was one of two Kansas University students who received belated medals in an award ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.
Jean-Baptiste and Wesley Fine, a retired Army captain, received medals that had not yet been awarded to them because they had to be evacuated from the field after sustaining injuries in the line of duty.
“I think it’s really important to recognize them for all the sacrifices they’ve made,” Sara Jean-Baptiste said.
Lt. Col. Warren Dewey remembers his 85-year-old grandfather telling of medals he earned but never received during World War II.
He wanted to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to “his guys.” They represent the seven participants in a KU and U.S. Army program that allows soldiers wounded in combat to earn a graduate degree paid for by the Army in return for a commitment to serve in a military or civilian capacity for the Army — usually teaching.
“When they’re 85, I don’t want them sitting around saying, ‘I didn’t get my medals,’” Dewey said.
Instead, he said they’ll now be able to show them off to their grandchildren. Fine, who served in the infantry in Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005 during heavy fighting there, received the Army Commendation Medal and a Bronze Star. He was injured when hit with shrapnel and indirect fire during a conflict, and sustained injuries to his face and other parts of his body.
Jean-Baptiste, a helicopter pilot, received an Air Medal, an Air Medal with device for valor, an Army Commendation Medal and a Combat Action Badge. His helicopter crashed after suffering a malfunction while supporting infantry troops on the ground.
Both soldiers said the ceremony meant a lot.
Fine said his Army career was the best part of his life, even though he “got rocked pretty good” in combat.
“This is something I was down for,” he said. “I would’ve been down for it all the way to the end.”
Jean-Baptiste said he appreciated that he could share the moment with his wife and two young children. He said his children typically see his military career as “just another job.”
“This shows them that Daddy doesn’t just have a job,” he said. “It shows that the work he does is important.”