Posted at: 12/08/2012 8:42 PM
Updated at: 12/08/2012 11:44 PM
By: Mark Saxenmeyer
It's one of the military's most prestigious honors, yet it's one that no solder actually wants to receive.
Saturday in Brooklyn Park, the Minnesota National Guard awarded the Purple Heart to a sergeant who was attacked in Iraq six years ago. Sgt. Jesse Lund nearly died in that attack and, to this day, there's still fall-out from the injuries he suffered.
The Purple Heart is a huge honor, but it comes with a huge price.
Major David Hintgen, Sgt. Lund's former company commander, presided over the ceremony. "By the order of the president of the United States, the Purple Heart, established by General George Washington, is awarded to Sgt. Jesse R. Lund for wounds received in active on the 29th of June, 2006," he said.
It's an honor reserved for those who've been injured by the enemy. Sgt. Lund, of New Ulm, was riding with his platoon just north of Baghdad that fateful day. "It was combat patrol, up and down the roads, which of course at that time in the war was one of the most dangerous times," Hintgen explained.
"And we hit a roadside bomb," Lund said.
Commander Jason Inskeep, the leader of Sgt. Lund's platoon, added, "It was embedded in the road. and so it hit in the middle of our convoy and we lost one soldier."
His name: Sgt. Kyle Miller of Willmar, Minnesota.
"We had others who were seriously injured," Inskeep continued.
Sgt. Lund was among them; he suffered head, back and knee injuries. It was a traumatic time, in fact, so traumatic--"when it happened I didn't remember anything," Lund said.
But those who were with him say his actions were heroic. "He grabbed his rifle, he pulled security, made sure that the area was safe and then he started treating the injuries that he could," Inskeep said.
Sgt. Lund also still managed to finish his out his 15-month tour of duty in Iraq. He's been back home with his wife and three kids since 2007, including 7-year-old Kadence. She told him, "I'm really proud, Dad. You did a really good job."
But the adjustment hasn't always been easy.
"I deal a lot with headaches every day," Lund said. "Some of my memory is not the greatest."
His wife Darcy elaborated. "We're still working through remembering everything that went on," she said. "He is sometimes very forgetful on certain things, important things."
And loud noises transport him back in time.
"It is very frustrating," Lund said.
Yet despite it all, "I have my days that I still wish I was in the military," he said.
The feeling is mutual. Hintgen said, "I know a lot of people call soldiers heroes. My heroes are Purple Heart guys."
"I guess I don't look at it that way," Lund demured. "I do what I'm supposed to do."
Those at the ceremony said the honor was long overdue. It's usually presented to those who are eligible while they're still on active duty, often times while still in the country where they were injured. Of all the soldiers who've served in the current Afghanistan and Iraq wars, more than 42,000 have received the Purple Heart.
"It's not the award you go to win when you're joining the military," Darcy Lund said.
Sgt. Lund is thankful for it, but he'd trade it in a second, for a clean bill of health.
"I mean it can't fix what has been done but it's a start," he said.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org