FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) On Wednesday, two Fort Wainwright soldiers, Staff Sergeant Armando Martinez and Sergeant Kevin Stevens, were awarded purple hearts for injuries they sustained during the Iran missile attack in January.
Two Fort Wainwright soldiers were awarded purple hearts for injuries they sustained during the Iran missile attack in January. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)
"Unreal, still, like I never thought I was going to get hurt and then when people started taking this seriously, and then to be honored like this, it's actually very like they care, it shows, it's a very honorable award," said Martinez.
"The way you get a purple heart is usually something bad, I'm definitely honored to be receiving it and I'm definitely happy to be receiving it, and I'm glad that everybody that was in my team and squad is alive today, that's what I'm happy about mostly," said Stevens.
Martinez says he was a part of the team that stayed back to check to see if there were any military or civilian casualties from the attack.
"We had to go out to assess casualties after the missile fire, and that's when me and the squad kind of came under the missile barrages, and we were moving under missile attack, from bunker to bunker checking on people," said Martinez.
There were no casualties, but several soldiers including Stevens and Martinez received Traumatic Brain Injuries. Stevens says it was hard to process the attack.
"I didn't know how to do it, I've never been through anything like that in my life, it took some time to grasp the situation as something that really did happen, rather than, it kind of feels like a movie thinking back on it, just because it was so outrageous," said Stevens.
Now that they are home, they have been recovering from their injuries.
"It's been a little rough, because obviously I have kids, so they want to be with daddy all the time, but sometimes I have to take a break, and just let my brain relax. It's kind of a bittersweet injury because you can't see it on the outside, I don't know if it's healing. People don't understand it really, because I don't have a loss of limb, I have a brain injury nobody can see that, so they think I'm okay because I look okay, but I don't think the inside is okay,” said Martinez.
Both Martinez and Stevens say returning home from the deployment due to the injuries was bittersweet.
"Upset that I'm not over there with my squad and team that I was a huge part of for so long, that I'm disappointed about but I'm definitely happy to be home," said Stevens.
According to U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs Officer Charlie Dietz, there are still 2,100 Fort Wainwright soldiers overseas in Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait. Dietz says the soldiers will start to return home at the end of May.
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