This heart beats purple: Despite wounds, medic responds quickly to aid fellow Soldiers
September 27, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - Three people were injured after the Stryker in which Sgt. Castillo Sanchez was riding hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Sanchez, a medic, immediately began treating two of the wounded, and he was so concerned about taking care of the others it was not until later he realized he had received injuries himself.
Sgt. 1st Class James T. Carwell recounted the story at a ceremony Sept. 9 at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Chapel where Sanchez received the Purple Heart. Nearly 100 people, most of them Sanchez's colleagues at the Wiesbaden Health Clinic, attended the ceremony.
Sanchez sustained a broken tailbone, a bruise on his heel bone and mild traumatic brain injury in the blast, which occurred Feb. 26, 2010, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, Sanchez said.
His injuries could have been much worse if he had sat in his usual seat in the vehicle, Sanchez said, but an infantry scout asked if they could switch seats.
"That one day he asked if he could take my spot because he wanted to sleep," Sanchez said. "That was the only time we switched seats."
Soon after, the vehicle hit the IED, Sanchez said, and the scout sustained fractures in his lower legs. Another Soldier ruptured a ligament in his knee.
"I'm just thankful we all walked out alive," Sanchez said. "I hope everyone is doing OK."
One unofficial member of the crew, a stuffed cat named Kenny, not only survived the blast, but went on other missions with other medics after the incident, Sanchez said.
As a good-luck token, Soldiers took pictures with Kenny when they were out on missions, Sanchez said, and he still has him today.
Sanchez, a team sergeant at the clinic, manages patient flow and oversees the front desk for the primary care division. His wife, Sgt. Sandra Sanchez, also works at the clinic.
Lt. Col. Tony Tidwell, commander of the clinic, said the Purple Heart is a significant award. "We have all sacrificed, but the person who receives the Purple Heart gave a little bit more than the rest of us," he said.
The roots of the Purple Heart go back to the birth of the nation and President George Washington, when he was a general in the revolutionary war, Tidwell said.
Washington held a lot of appreciation for regular Soldiers, and he wanted to create an award that would show that appreciation, Tidwell said.
As a result, Washington unveiled the Badge of Military Merit in 1782, Tidwell said. The award was a heart made of purple cloth and edged with silver braid.
The award became the modern version of the Purple Heart in 1932, Tidwell said, 200 years after Washington's birth. It commemorates Soldiers wounded at the hands of the enemy.
Most historians agree that only three Soldiers received the merit badge during the Revolutionary War, and all of them were noncommissioned officers, according to a history by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Sergeants Daniel Bissell, William Brown and Elijah Churchill all received the badge in 1783, according to the order, from Washington himself.
Other soldiers, however, received the award later, as they received their discharge papers from the revolutionary war, according to the order.
Col. Jeffrey Lawson, deputy commander for Army health clinics in the Landstuhl area, said he attended the ceremony to bring the best wishes of the entire Landstuhl staff to Sanchez.
President Barack Obama has called the 10 years since Sept. 11 a decade of sacrifice, Lawson said. "We've all sacrificed for this effort, and some more than others," he said, referring to Sanchez.