Guardsman Honored After Being Injured In Afghanistan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A soldier with the West Virginia National Guard has received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and combat infantry badge for being injured while guarding Norwegian army demolition teams in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Ronald Rinto received his medals Tuesday at Camp Dawson in north central West Virginia. He's on disability leave from his job as a police officer in Kent, Ohio.

Rinto was with the 19th Special Forces group on May 1 when land mines the demolition experts were trying to dismantle exploded, injuring his leg. He was rushed to an Army hospital and now can walk without a limp.

"I owe that to a bunch of crazy Norwegians who put me in the back of their Jeep Cherokee and drove as fast as they could," he said.

Rinto is enrolled in a master's program in criminal justice at Kent State University.

Rinto was injured 18 days before the death of Staff Sgt. Gene Vance, who was on patrol with the 2nd Battalion Special Forces group in Afghanistan. Vance was the first West Virginia guardsman to be killed on duty since World War II.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)