CONCORD -- In late 2011, Sgt. 1st Class Paul M. Dimond kept his composure when an improvised explosive device detonated 16 feet away from him and his team in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Manchester resident assessed his own injuries, located each member of his squad, then drove his fellow soldiers to a medical tent for evaluation.
That's the type of situation Dimond trained for. Yesterday in Concord, after receiving a Purple Heart in front of two brigadier generals, a governor and three members of Congress, composure was a little harder to come by.
"I'm not a hero," said Dimond. "I was just doing my job that day, which is taking care of my guys. I'm very humbled by all of this — I know a lot of people took time off from work to be here."
Dimond was honored during a Purple Heart ceremony in the State House Friday morning, attended by Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, Brigadier Generals Michaelene Klosters and Peter Corey, as well as Dimond family members and friends.
"I'm happy for him, that he finally got it," said Mary Dimond, Paul's wife. "It's well deserved. I think it's a little overwhelming for him."
"Last night I looked up the definition of a hero," said Brig. Gen Kloster. "The definition is this - a person who in the face of danger and adversity displays the courage, the will, and self-sacrifice for the greater good. This definition personifies the character of Sgt. Dimond. Your actions, your character, your commitment and most of all your courage and resiliency make you just that - a true American hero."
A Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces wounded, killed or who has died after being wounded.
On December 8, 2011, Dimond, who works in security at Seabrook Station, was in the U.S. Army Reserves serving as an adviser to the Afghan National Army when five grenades placed under the seat of Afghan Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed at a military graduation ceremony in Kandahar were detonated via remote control, in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hameed.
Dimond, 42, and his team were feet away when the grenades went off. After assessing own wounds he "maintained his composure and made an initial assessment of the other wounded personnel and obtained 100 percent accountability of his team," according to information provided during Friday's ceremony. He and his team also secured the site so military technicians could analyze the remains of the explosives.
"Events like this really help us honor our long military history in New Hampshire," said Hassan. "They also give the people a chance to honor our heroes like Sgt. Dimond, who along with so many others work to keep us safer and to make our freedoms stronger."
"When Paul's wife Mary reached out to our office and shared his story, everyone in our office was so moved by what he had done," said Shaheen. "I think what stands out the most is his willingness and courage to put others first, even under the most difficult of circumstances. As we learned more about Paul, we learned it's what he has always done."
"Sgt. Dimond represents the best of our country," said Ayotte. "Not just our military, but also who we are, and why we are so proud to be Americans. A citizen soldier whose courage is a model for all of us. Time and again Sgt. Dimond stepped forward and answered the call. Both he and his family understand what sacrifice means."
Dimond is a currently serving as a drill sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 304th Regiment, based out of Londonderry. The unit, comprised solely of drill sergeants, trains entry-level soldiers and ROTC cadets at various locations around the country. Dimond will head to Fort Knox, Ky., this summer to conduct training sessions. On Friday he declined to discuss the nature of the injuries he suffered during the 2011 IED blast, instead reiterating he doesn't believe he is a hero.
"My training just kicked in," said Dimond. "It's my job, and I did what I was trained to do. Again, I'm just overwhelmed with the turnout and the ceremony today."
Last week in Tennessee, Dimond's father-in-law, John Morse, 67, received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during the Vietnam War 44 years ago after being struck by shrapnel.