BEMIDJI - A Bemidji native has been awarded a Purple Heart.
Karisa Hayes Molé, a 2010 Bemidji High School graduate, on Sunday was awarded a Purple Heart while serving in Afghanistan.
Molé, an airborne military police specialist with the U.S. Army, was injured in May when an improvised explosive device struck the Humvee she was traveling in while stationed in Afghanistan.
Molé, 20, the daughter of Jeremy and Ann Hayes, has been communicating with her parents via Facebook while overseas, except for two-minute phone calls about once a month.
Ann Hayes learned of her daughter's injuries when she received the following Facebook message:
"Hey mom. The army requires me to tell that I'm in a hospital in Kabul. My truck was hit with an IED. I was evacuated in a helicopter to my current location, and I have a TBI (traumatic brain injury). Pretty much just a bad concussion and hurt neck. I'm very lucky mom. I was in a firefight earlier that day too. But I'm alright. I should be back in the fight soon. Just had to tell you so the army didn't say anything or anybody freaked you out. I'm ok. Love you, see you in September!"
Ann Hayes received the message while she was in California caring for her own mother, who is battling cancer.
"(The) message was laden with terrible news and yet it was written with the innocence of a young lady who was not concerned for her well-being but for the feeling of others," Ann Hayes wrote in a release. "Our daughter has matured into a soldier we are proud of."
Ann Hayes told the Pioneer that Molé spent a couple of weeks recovering from her injuries and then rejoined her unit in Afghanistan.
"We're proud of her for what she is doing," Ann Hayes said, "the maturity she's showing and the resolve you have to have to see the things that you've seen."
Last November, Molé married Arizona native Kyle Molé, who also is on deployment to Afghanistan.
Kyle Molé is now recovering from injuries of his own, Ann Hayes said. The day after his wife was awarded a Purple Heart, Kyle Molé was accidentally run over by a Humvee, which crushed his foot and broke his tibia. He now is in Germany.
Karisa Hayes Molé joined the Army immediately after graduating BHS. Several of her cousins serve in the Army and Marines; her grandfather served 27 years in the Marines, including time in Vietnam.
It was after 9/11 that Molé, a former track athlete who earned good grades, began expressing interest in joining the military and becoming a paratrooper, Ann Hayes said.
"She wanted to go into the Army her junior year," she recalled. "I told her no."
Molé plans to retire from the Army and become a police officer, Ann Hayes said. She is three years into her five-year service term.
She had been stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C., but in April was sent to Afghanistan for a six-month deployment. She serves on a Female Engagement Team, through which she goes out and speaks to Afghani women and children about their needs.
Men do not openly interact with women in Afghanistan, Ann Hayes said.
Molé attended Concordia Language Villages when she was in 10th grade to learn Arabic. Her mother said that experience has helped her in Afghanistan.