BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pinned Purple Heart medals on three injured Utah soldiers during a visit to Craig Joint Theater Hospital on Monday.

Staff Sgt. Steven Dawson, Spc. Gregory Miller and Spc. Quinn Jensen, Army reservists from Utah with the 744th Engineer Co. in Ogden, were on route clearance duty and suffered injuries when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Dawson, who is on his second deployment, told an armed services reporter the previous 24 hours had been a daze. The blast left his ankle broken in eight places.

"One minute we were clearing the route, then we were hit, transported here and now Secretary Gates is pinning a Purple Heart on my shirt," said the Salt Lake resident.

"It means a lot that they took time out of their schedules to come see us," said Jensen, who is from Logan. "It shows they genuinely care about us and those of us still out here."

Jensen's parents in Logan, Paul and Charla Jensen, said he was the lead driver and had the most extensive injuries, suffering a broken back, arm, and leg.

Their first call on Sunday came from the Army but left them waiting several more hours before getting a call from their son. "He said 'Don't worry about me, I'll be OK' " his mother said. "Then he said 'Mom, I got a Purple Heart, and all of my buddies got a Purple Heart.' "

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Jensen's grandfathers were war veterans — one fought in the Korean war and the other in World War II. "Quinn served a (LDS) mission in Guatemala. When he came home he had this great desire to serve his country," his mom said.

"When he makes up his mind he's so committed, almost hard-headed," his father said. "We have seven kids, and I am proud of every one of them. But now I have a hero to be proud of, and that's Quinn."

e-mail: sfidel@desnews.com

Twitter: SteveFidel

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