By Deana Perry, AW2 Advocate
When retired SFC Mattew Netzel first asked for my help with his Purple Heart, I told him, “Sure, no problem, we can do that.” Then the details came. We first tracked down his treating physician for medical documentation on his injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2006—two thousand six! Quietly, I was thinking, oh boy, how do I do that? Can I do that? But I wasn’t about to let Netzel know that I was uncertain of my success. If I told him I would only try, then I might be tempted to only try. In my mind, he was holding me accountable to follow through. He was going to get his Purple Heart. And, that required more than just a nice try.
Last month, my husband, my son, and I walked down the sidewalk outside the city hall building toward the Purple Heart Memorial in Harker Heights, TX. It was drizzling and a bit humid as we approached the crowd. I saw Netzel standing near the memorial, surrounded by his Family and friends. It was there where he received his Purple Heart during a ceremony hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Central Texas Chapter #1876. I watched and swelled with pride and satisfaction as retired MG Stewart Meyer pinned the Purple Heart to Netzel’s chest and said the Purple Heart was a small token of appreciation for the sacrifices he made for his country. When Netzel spoke, with his daughter in his arms, he thanked the crowd and said, “It makes you reflect on the ones that aren’t able to be here.”
So, I did leave a lot out of this story, but the how doesn’t seem as imporatant as the who and why. Netzel is an inspiration to me, and it was a priviledge to be a part of the efforts that ensured he received recognition for his sacrifices while defending our nation. Almost every time we talk, he thanks me for helping him, but I’m not the one who is owed thanks. It is an honor to serve as his AW2 Advocate. Thank you, Matt!
Editor’s Note: SFC Matthew Netzel was injured in November 2006 when his 11-man patrol was ambushed by as many as 60 Taliban fighters. Four rocket-propelled grenades detonated next to Netzel and two other Soldiers. The blast threw Netzel off a 10-foot embankment onto a rockbed.