U.S. Army Ranger Cpl. Josh Hargis was lying on a hospital bed in Afghanistan, hooked up to a breathing tube with his right hand heavily bandaged when he was awarded a Purple Heart for his valor in the battlefield.
None of that, however, stopped Hargis, 24, from following military protocol and lifting his bandaged hand to salute the Ranger Regimental Commander who pinned the Purple Heart to his red, white and blue Quilts of Valor quilt.
“Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak[s] volumes about Josh’s courage and character,” one of the officers present in the hospital room wrote in a letter to Hargis’s wife, Taylor. “I will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army.”
Taylor Hargis posted the photo of her husband saluting from his hospital bed along with the letter she received from his commanding officer to her Facebook page Oct. 12. It has since been shared more than 5,000 times, including on the Guardian of Valor website, which labeled the picture “the salute seen around the world.”
Hargis of Cincinnati was wounded Oct. 6 when an Afghan woman detonated a suicide bomb vest, killing four members of his 3rd Army Ranger Battalion and wounding 12 other U.S. soldiers, according to the Guardian of Valor website and Hargis’ hometown newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The roughly 50 officers and medical staff in the room with Hargis thought he was unconscious during the pinning ceremony, the commander told Taylor Hargis in his letter. The doctor tried to restrain Hargis’ arm when he lifted it to salute.
“He had no idea how strong and driven my husband is,” Taylor Hargis, who did not reply to ABCNews.com’s request for comment as of this writing, told the Enquirer. “He was just showing what it means to be a warrior and an American soldier.”
Hargis’s mother, Laura Heitman, told Cincinnati’s ABC News affiliate WCPO-TV that Taylor is pregnant with the couple’s first child. She also told the station her son was on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Hargis was transferred from Afghanistan to a U.S. military hospital in Germany. He was flown Tuesday from Germany to San Antonio, Texas, where he will continue his recovery at the Army hospital at Fort Sam Houston, Heitman said.
Taylor Hargis told the Enquirer she has spoken to her husband by phone and expects him to “be just fine.”
“If you want to know the meaning of strong,” she said, “it’s an Army Ranger.”