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YORK, Maine — James Carabello and his battalion commander were conducting battlefield circulation with the U.S. Armyin Chowkay Valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan on Aug. 14, 2009, when they came under fire from insurgents on the top of a nearby hill.

As they began to take cover, Carabello was hit with a bullet. “It felt like there was a hot poker in my leg,” he said.

Carabello is now 58 and a retired U.S. Army command sergeant major living in York. In a recent interview, he reflected on his experiences in Afghanistan, his decades of military service and the sacrifices of his fellow service members. 

“I was lucky,” he said. “If the bullet had been an eighth of an inch more to the left, I might not have anything below my left knee … I was very, very fortunate.” 

Retired  U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Carabello, 58,  poses in his living room on Nov. 5, 2021 in York, Maine. Carabello is a Purple Heart recipient and serves on the town's Committee for Veterans' Affairs.

A couple of other people were wounded alongside him, but no one lost their life that day, Carabello said. Their battalion owned the position, so they called in some artillery and helicopters to provide support.

Within 30 seconds of the bullet hitting him, Carabello said he quickly dressed his wound alone and “continued to do what I was doing.” By the next day, he was up and able to walk again, conducting another operation, albeit with prescribed medications.

Carabello is one of an estimated 1.8 million veterans nationwide who have received Purple Heart awards since the honor was established in 1932 for those who are wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Retired  U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Carabello, 58,  holds his Purple Heart medal on Nov. 5, 2021, in York, Maine. Carabello received a Purple Heart after being wounded by gunfire in Afghanistan in 2009.

Carabello has one of seven Purple Heart license plates registered to vehicles in York, according to Town Clerk Lynn Osgood. It’s unclear how many Purple Heart recipients currently live in the area.

As a member of the York Committee for Veterans’ Affairs, Carabello and other members recently encouraged the York Board of Selectmen to adopt a proclamation to declare the town a Purple Heart Community, and the board did so on Oct. 18.

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