Sgt. 1st Class Kara Wait, a medical recruiter stationed in Spokane, was one of 11 soldiers awarded the U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Audie Murphy medallion in a ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on Sept. 21.
Wait, a combat medic, served a 12-month tour in 2010 in Iraq as part of a combat trauma surgery team.
“Our mission was to be a ready, deployable and moveable force that can provide trauma resuscitation,” she said. “We provided care, and then we got them out.”
The 18-year veteran, a native of Janesville, Wisconsin, joined the Army while still in high school and worked at her hometown hospital, Mercy Health Systems, for 15 1/2 years. She has been a recruiter since August 2013.
The Audie Murphy award began as the Audie Murphy club at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1986, but it quickly spread throughout the Army.
“The first time I heard about it … I was in my first unit,” Wait said. “Almost every enlisted soldier knows the existence of it.”
The Army Recruiting Command has held 17 selection boards; this year’s crop brings their membership total to 244.
Audie Murphy is widely considered the most decorated soldier in U.S. Army history. He won every American combat medal available at the time of his service, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, and medals for valor from France and Belgium. After his Army service, Murphy moved to Hollywood and became a movie actor. He starred in 39 films, including the autobiographical “To Hell and Back.” He also wrote the lyrics to 16 country-western songs.
An officer chain of command nominates candidates for the Audie Murphy Award who demonstrate the principles of the U.S. Army Forces Command code 600-8 – who “exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of soldiers and concern for families of soldiers.”
The final phase, held at Fort Knox, came at the end of a grueling, multi-tiered weeding process. Wait was one of four candidates selected in Las Vegas for brigade competition in April, and one of five candidates selected in New York for division competition in June. Each candidate had to perform physical fitness tests, recite Murphy’s biography and answer questions about details of Murphy’s life.
“The biography takes about 3 1/2 minutes to recite,” Wait said, “and you can’t miss a word.”
The finalists heard the results live, as a group. “I was excited,” Wait said. “I was sitting there, thinking (it) could go either way.”
A panel of nine judges had to approve each winner by unanimous vote.
Wait dodged one obstacle she had no desire to tackle. The board added Murphy’s song, “Shutters and Boards,” to this year’s list of required performances. Wait was ready and able to sing – if not all that willing – but the board let her off the hook. “I was fourth-to-last to present,” she said, “so (by then) the judges were probably tired of hearing the song.”
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