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This Week: Purple Heart veteran discusses Memorial Day

We all know Memorial Day weekend is often full of fun activities and a welcoming of the coming summer season, but most of us also know, the important significance of Memorial Day.

Our guest for “This Week” is a veteran who faced a deadly situation while serving his country.

It’s important to point out, we’re not confusing Memorial Day with Veterans Day, but we’re talking of a vet’s perspective of the day we remember the fallen heroes.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Bret: Right after high school I joined the Army Infantry in 2008. Did three and a half years of service, deployment to Iraq in ’09 again and in 2012, I went to Westminster College.

Joey: And one of the reasons you joined the military was it’s something you’re family has done for many years, right?

Bret: Yeah, my grandpa was in World War II, my brother was in Army Infantry as well, and my stepdad is still currently in aviation right now.

Joey: Do you ever get to talk to your granddad about his experiences?

Bret: He never talked about it too much so we never had that conversation.

Joey: Did your experience now as a veteran, change the way you see this upcoming holiday of Memorial Day?

Bret: Definitely. It’s a great holiday to really honor the fallen soldiers we have lost.

Joey: You had a very close call in 2009, right?

Bret: Yeah.

Joey: And what happened?

Bret: Well, it was an everyday, we do this every day, just a normal route, and it was about 7:00 in the morning and a bomb exploded in front of our truck, right behind our first truck. And seconds after, they call it an EFP exploded and shrapnel came inside the truck. I got a scar on my face from the shrapnel.

Joey: So you were hit by shrapnel from this explosively formed device, is what they call it?

Bret: Mmhmm.

Joey: Now how is that different from an IED?

Bret: Well, an EFP is, it has a copper disk in the front and as it explodes it forms into a bullet almost and it really rips through anything our military has as far as armor. And usually when you hear, ‘Hey we got hit by an EFP’ there’s usually a death. We were so lucky it hit in the right spot where only a couple scratches came out.

Joey: So, it’s effectively being like shot in the face…almost?

Bret: Yeah.

Joey: And when it happened, what was your immediate reaction?

Bret: Actually, I didn’t know I was hit. I was, you know, my adrenaline was going and I was immediately like, “We’re getting in a fight, let’s go!” I didn’t know I was hit until my squad leader came down and was like “You alright? You alright?”, I’m like “yep.”

Joey: And there was quite a few of you out there and no one else was hurt?

Bret: Just a couple scratches. I was the worst injury, luckily.

Joey: And it certainly looked bad, I mean there’s no doubt. For this, you were awarded the Purple Heart.

Bret: Mmhmm.

Joey: And how did that make you feel?

Bret: It was good. You know, there’s definitely a lot of fallen soldiers and other soldiers that are missing limbs and have it worse than just a scar. They deserve the Purple Heart as well too, and it’s more for them, yeah.

Joey: Not many of your classmates at Westminster have a purple heart, right?

Bret: Uh, no.

Joey: Probably not something you’d wish upon them, right?

Bret: No, No.

Joey: And how has this affected your college career, do you think?

Bret: Greatly. I feel, feel like I got a second chance, kinda.

Joey: In addition to being a student, you are also part of an internship with YMCA.

Bret: Yeah, the YMCA of Callaway County; they’re in Fulton. I created my own internship there where, to try to get veterans together to create camaraderie and do physical activity and service together. And I really do feel that there’s a lot of veteran deaths and suicides after the war and we, this is a great need. We need to realize and we need to have a program for our veterans to come, um, build camaraderie and come together. Because in the service we fight together, we eat together, we do everything together, but I think when we get out, we don’t do much together so we need to heal together.

Joey: I really appreciate it. Thank you for coming in and enjoying this very special moment. Thank you for your service, and happy Memorial Day.

Bret: Thank you.

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