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By Aenet Rowa

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, April 27) – A Marshallese serving with United States forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, has received a special, outstanding duty and service commendation from a U.S. Army four-star general.

Sgt. Julium Lejjena was one of only 12 honored out of 230 soldiers. He was awarded a Generals' coin and Certificate of Appreciation from General Paul Kerns, Commander of Army Material Command, the Army's most senior logistics officer.

SGT Lejjena is among the 100 to 200 soldiers from the Marshall Islands serving with the U.S. Armed Forces, many in the Iraq conflict. His unit flies helicopters and materials into the fighting zones almost every week. "It is very dangerous, and there are many close calls," reports SGT Lejjena.

"We fly 50 feet from the ground all the way in the chopper. Sometimes we take a 32-seater plane, also flying low, 50-100 feet, zigzagging all the way to avoid ground fire. It's like a roller-coaster ride," said SGT Lejjena.

"Many times, there are close calls with power lines and birds. Sometimes we see green tracers zipping by," he said.

SGT Lejjena was deployed in December 2003 for a year and eight months tour of duty with the 1107th AVCRAD (Aviation Classification and Restoration Activity Depot), National Guard unit, from Springfield, Missouri. This is highest level of helicopter maintenance with only four units in the nation.

Although originally from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshalls, Lejjena was living in Oregon when he joined the Army in February of 1987. He first served as a legal specialist, mainly in the Criminal Law Division.

Citizens of the Marshall Islands, under the Compact of Free Association with the United States, are eligible to serve in any of the US Armed Forces.

Lejjena has served 9 years of active duty and the rest in the National Guard. In his current assignment, he is a generator and wheel mechanic and hopes to work in helicopter avionics or electronics soon.

During his tours of duty, SGT Lejjena has received other awards and decorations including the combat badge, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Overseas medal, Reserve Overseas ribbon, Foreign Deployment ribbon, Army service ribbon, Non-Commissioned Officers Professional Development ribbon, Air Assault badge, Global War on Terrorism ribbon w/M device (mobilized), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, National Guard good conduct ribbon, National Guard Meritorious Achievement medal, State emergency ribbon, National Defense ribbon, Utah National Guard Ribbon as well as letters of commendation from Admirals, Generals, and Sergeant Majors.

April 28, 2004

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