La Habra Soldier to Walk Oscar Red Carpet

The soldier's platoon is the subject of the documentary "Restrepo"

Monday, Feb 28, 2011  |  Updated 8:11 AM PDT
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Army Staff Sgt. Aron Hijar, whose platoon was the subject of the documentary "Restrepo," will be among those walking the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday.

"Restrepo" is nominated for in the Documentary Feature category, and Hijar, who is from La Habra, and fellow soldier Sgt. Misha Pemble-Belkin were invited by the filmmakers, journalists Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, the Orange County Register reported.

Junger and Hetherington followed the Italy-based platoon in a Taliban-infested section of the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan between May 2007 and July 2008.

Restrepo was the name of a fallen medic and given to a critical observation point, once a Taliban stronghold, which was overtaken by Hijar's platoon.

"By the end of deployment, we became so proud of it because of what we had done," Hijar, 28, told the newspaper.

His 2nd Platoon Battle Company 2-503rd ABCT, about 30 strong, was deployed to provide humanitarian aide to villagers, but the soldiers wound up in a fight against the Taliban, Hijar said. Seven members of the platoon were killed during his time there.

"I lost count of how many guys that were wounded," he said.

Hijar, who was in charge of a handful of soldiers, had been in the region about two months when, in July 2008, he was a few feet from a staff sergeant when gunfire rang out, then an explosion.

"I see my squad leader's left arm dangling off of a shred of skin," Hijar told The Register. "I was covered in blood. ...It took me a long time to get over that sight."

The platoon eventually inched up the hill they dubbed Restrepo.

They could see us from any point, and shoot at us whenever they wanted to," Hijar said.

The journalists wrote two long stories for Vanity Fair on the platoon. Then, there was the 93-minute movie.

Junger said a shot at wining an Oscar would not have been possible if not for the soldiers.

"We wish we could have the whole platoon with us, but we can't" Junger said. "Our nomination, which is a thrill to us, represents the quality of the men we were with."

Hijar's first day as a civilian will be Sunday. He is enrolled in the firefighter program at Santa Ana College.

He joined the Army at age 20.

"They were hitting us at home" he said. "It was time to go."

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