FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — A Fort Campbell soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury received the Silver Star on Friday for his actions to help evacuate wounded troops during a mission in Afghanistan in 2010.
After receiving the honor during a ceremony at the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Loheide (LOH'-hyd) of Patchogue, N.Y., immediately re-enlisted in the Army to serve other wounded warriors like him.
Several of Loheide's former teammates returned to Fort Campbell to see him accept the military's third-highest medal for valor, which he said was earned by everyone in his unit. "I am humbled to be honored with it, but I think overall it is a team event," he said.
In June 2010, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team under the 101st Airborne Division. The mission, called Operation Strong Eagle I, was to clear the Ghaki Valley in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan of entrenched insurgents, said his former platoon leader, Capt. Douglas Jones.
"Being right on the border with Pakistan, it was really an area where not a lot of Americans or NATO forces had been in for a while," he said.
During the fighting, Loheide's unit was moving through open ground while rounds impacted inches from his head. A miscalculated 500-pound bomb dropped on their position, which caused Loheide's brain injury, but also wounded three others. Despite his injury, Loheide got up and called for a medical evacuation for the soldiers.
Jones said Loheide kept a level head and relied on his training in the middle of a major explosion.
"It's all kind of blurry for a moment, because when a 500-pound bomb goes off a few feet from your position, there's a lot going on," Jones said. "You are completely covered. Guys are bleeding. And you want to make sure everyone is accounted for."
Loheide marked a spot for the helicopter to land with a smoke grenade while still under fire and then helped to load up the casualties. He then moved up a mountain to locate two more wounded soldiers and led them down the mountain for evacuation.
He said that he acted despite his injuries because he felt responsible for the men under him.
"I am not afraid of dying so much as I am afraid of failing my men and failing my leadership," he said.
After returning home to Fort Campbell, Loheide spent several months at the installation TBI treatment center, but he stayed with his unit during his treatment.
"There were obstacles that I do face, but with their help, I found ways around them," he said.
He now serves as an adaptive reconditioning non-commissioned officer at the Warrior Transition Battalion, helping soldiers like him who are recovering from injuries or disease.
"Now I can help soldiers when they come back, whether they are injured or not," he said. "I can relate to them more than some clinicians can."
Although he's not with an infantry unit anymore, he said he loves his job helping wounded soldiers going through the difficult recovery and transition period.
"There's a bond and brotherhood in the infantry that I will probably never match no matter where I go," he said.
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