While deployed to Iraq in April of 2008, a split second changed Army Col. Fred Heaggans’ life forever.Now, 12 years later, Heaggans stands tall and proud in his dress uniform, before a small, socially distanced audience, and several TV cameras, who are witnessing the now-retired colonel's induction into the Huntsville chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.The MOPH ceremony, in honor of Heaggans and several other area veterans who served their country and suffered wounds during their service, will be broadcast locally on Veteran's Day.At the time of his injury Heaggans was deployed as the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command’s liaison officer supporting partner forces, and their foreign military sales cases, at the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Baghdad.Heaggans was nearing the end of his tour, and would soon be waiting for his replacement to arrive, when alert sirens warned members in the Green Zone of incoming fire.The Embassy compound was hit several times, with shrapnel spewing through his trailer.“An enemy 107mm mortar round exploded near my living quarters which left me unconscious for a short period of time,” Heaggans recalled. “When I woke up I noticed I was on my back, and in the corner of my living quarters, with ears ringing and dazed.”Although flying pieces of metal missed him by mere inches, it was the blast wave, and pressure from the explosion, that caused his internal injuries.“As I attempted to stand up, pain radiated throughout my body, and fortunately there were no visible external injuries,” he said. “So I went outside to lend assistance where necessary within our living compound.”Despite the sirens warning that more attacks were imminent, Heaggans continued to help provide aid to others until he was taken to a combat support hospital for treatment.Heaggans wounds that day earned him the Purple Heart, following in the solemn footsteps of service members going back to 1782.After the Revolutionary War, General George Washington designed and established the Badge of Military Merit. The original purple heart-shaped cloth badge was given to honor those who suffered and sacrificed for our nation in a time of war.Today Heaggans is an Army civilian who continues to serve in the same command he served in on the day he was wounded. As deputy director of the Central Command Regional Operations Directorate he supports America's foreign partners, overseeing teams that manage foreign military sales in Iraq, Afghanistan and across CENTCOM's area of responsibility.As Heaggans talked about his experiences and struggles following that fateful day, he talked about how his faith, counseling and family were what he needed to overcome emotional demons that plagued him during his recovery“Frankly, I'm cognizant each and every day in the fact that I had to remain focused and vigilant in order to fight the internal struggles,” he stated. “With life in general, there's always a positive side to most scenarios, and for me it's my faith in God, and my consistent interaction with a pastor, who is my brother, and especially my commitment and interaction with behavioral services, to assist with addressing my PTSD issues.”As someone who has struggled over the years, he offered advice for all those that suffer as a result of combat actions and post-combat stressors.“From one veteran to another … take full advantage of what's being offered, it's there to help you and assist you for the sacrifice(s) you've made!”Heaggans said his induction served as a reminder to never forget that some, such as his good friend Col. Stephen Scott, who died in another mortar attack just days before Heaggans was wounded, did not come home to their families.“I am honored and humbled -- I will never forget,” he said.--------------------------------------Editor’s note: Col. Scott Fitness Center, located on Redstone Arsenal, is named in honor of Col. Stephen Scott, who was assigned to Redstone Arsenal, and lost his life while deployed to Iraq in 2008.