While most people think of the DEA as operating within the US, its efforts extend to countries that supply large quantities of drugs to the West. This work can take DEA agents into extremely dangerous territory overseas.
DEA Special Agent Joseph Piersante was on a narcotics and counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan in 2011 when enemy fire struck him, and he was nearly killed. On April 30, 2015, the Secretary of Defense honored Piersante for his actions with the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart—the Medal for the Defense of Freedom.
Piersante is especially deserving of this award for the way he handled his near miraculous recovery from the injuries he sustained while serving our country. As a motivational speaker, Piersante has inspired many people, both in and out of law enforcement. Part of his quest to help others included providing training on the philosophy of never giving up, overcoming adversity, and putting your life on the line for the greater good.
The Defense of Freedom Medal was first used to honor Defense Department civilians who were injured or killed during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The medal itself is highly symbolic, featuring a bald eagle holding a shield that exemplifies freedom, the principles of freedom, and how our nation defends this freedom.
The ribbon is red, white and blue with each color having a different meaning. Its four red stripes commemorate valor and sacrifice, and represent the four attacks with hijacked airplanes on 9/11. The single blue stripe represents the attack on the Pentagon.
This high-level award is the culmination of a series of awards that Piersante has received. These include the Federal Congressional Badge of Bravery and an award from Adrian College—his alma mater in Michigan.
With hard work, determination, and the support of his doctors, therapists, team members, family, and friends, Piersante was able to return to his duties as a Special Agent at the DEA’s FAST headquarters.
Piersante continues to inspire those around him with his positive attitude and bravery.