Retiree posthumously awarded Purple Heart
April 25, 2011
Life, struggle, sacrifice and heroism were honored April 22 in Osawatomie, Kan., when the Family of a fallen retiree received the Purple Heart awarded posthumously to Spc. Mason Unruh.
"He was everybody's best friend. You could count on him. He was courageous, funny; he was fearless. He was a great father," said David Unruh, Spc. Unruh's brother.
Spc. Unruh deployed to Iraq where he was in four improvised explosive device attacks in four consecutive months in 2007.
The attacks had lasting effects on Spc. Unruh, leading to post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and back injury, David said.
"He came home and it was a different story. It changes people," David said.
Spc. Unruh was assigned to the Fort Riley Warrior Transition Battalion, because it is in Kansas where his Family live in Osawatomie.
While at the WTB recovering, Spc. Unruh stopped by frequently to visit L'Tanya Pugh, a civilian employee at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
"He loved his two kids, his parents and his brother and sister. He spoke fondly of them all - all the time," Pugh said.
Spc. Unruh died in his sleep April 16, 2010, three days after his 32nd birthday, David said.
Pugh said she has remained in touch with Spc. Unruh's Family by sending cards on holidays.
Spc. Unruh's mother, Kathryn, said she received a Mother's Day card last May from Pugh and it meant a lot to her.
"It's days like those that are so hard," Kathryn said.
Spc. Unruh was medically retired from the Army Nov. 26, 2009.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins attended the Purple Heart ceremony April 22 in Osawatomie to present the award to Kathryn. Representatives from the Fort Riley WTB, Patriot Guard, American Legion, Osawatomie government and Military Order of the Purple Heart were in attendance to honor friends and Family of Spc. Unruh.
"Until you see the outpouring of love and honor, it makes me so proud to be a patriot of this country," David said.
Spc. Unruh was remembered for his gentleness, kindness and friendliness.
"He was a Soldier, but when he wasn't in his uniform, you wouldn't know. If you didn't love him, it was your character flaw," David said.