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Steelers to honor local Purple Heart recipient at game

January 12, 2011

The Pittsburgh Steelers will honor Purple Heart recipient Leo "Jerry" Geibel of Kane in a ceremony Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh prior to the pro football playoff game with the Baltimore Ravens. Geibel, a 2001 graduate of Kane Area High School, sustained severe leg wounds in 2004 while serving as a Seabee in Iraq. Photo by Ted Lutz

A capacity home crowd will be cheering Saturday at Heinz Field as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens in a pro football playoff game.
But before the action begins on the field, these same fans will be saluting several Purple Heart recipients-- including Leo "Jerry" Geibel of Kane-- in a pre-game ceremony at the stadium.
"It's a privilege to be part of the Purple Heart ceremony," Geibel said. "I want to thank the Steelers, who made it possible."
Geibel, a 2001 graduate of Kane Area High School, was wounded March 20, 2004 while serving near Baghdad, Iraq as a Seabee with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74. He is believed to be the first Seabee wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Geibel was on the street inspecting a damaged school building when he was struck in the lower left leg by a rocket-propelled grenade. Geibel, who saw the missile coming but had no time to react, said the grenade  "went through my leg" and exploded about 60 meters away.
"If it had exploded when it hit me, I'm dead," Geibel said. "If it had hit me just a half inch more to the left, I would have lost the leg."
Calling himself "the lucky one," Geibel has undergone 22 surgeries at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Surgeons saved his leg and Geibel has made a remarkable recovery. He currently works as a corrections officer at the state prison near Marienville.
For more information on this story, see the Jan. 13 edition of The Daily Press.

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