Dogface Soldier and Purple Heart recipient reflects on service

By Pvt. Benjamin HaleAugust 31, 2023

Command teams emphasize 'People First' in wake of severe weather
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 3rd Infantry Division Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Reffeor poses for a photograph with Spartan Soldiers from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID at a food distribution point, Aug. 30 on Fort Stewart. The 3rd ID Senior Command team checked on Soldier's quality of life by visiting barracks complexes ahead of Hurricane Idalia's arrival to the Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield area. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Angel Tomko) (Photo Credit: Molly Cooke) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Best Squad 2022 Competitors Gather for Lunch Before Competition
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Reffeor, Operations and Plans Sergeant Major for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, greets Sgt. Jakob Wrolstad, assigned to 56th Field Artillery Brigade, during a USO-hosted ice-breaking event held as part of the U.S Army Europe and Africa Best Squad Competition in Grafenwöhr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 7, 2022. Teams from across U.S. Army Europe and Africa test their tactical proficiency, communication, and overall cohesion as they compete for the title of Best Squad. Winners of this competition will advance to represent U.S. Army Europe and Africa at the U.S. Army Best Squad Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Devin Klecan) (Photo Credit: Spc. Devin Klecan) VIEW ORIGINAL

Senior noncommissioned officers at higher levels have demanding jobs. From overseeing training for thousands of Soldiers to advising senior commanders, it is easy to see how they might seem unapproachable or unrelatable to junior Soldiers.

However, Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Reffeor, the 3rd Infantry Division senior enlisted advisor, is the type of leader who will have a normal conversation with junior Soldiers about fishing or hunting. When asked for advice, he’ll share an experience from his extensive military career; however, one aspect he normally doesn’t talk about is that he is a Purple Heart recipient.

The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action. Reffeor received the Purple Heart for his actions in Iraq on May 25, 2006, when an improvised explosive device hit his squad's humvee, and he received shrapnel wounds to his shoulder and the back of his head.

“When it happened, I was very comfortable,” said Reffeor. “I wasn’t afraid I was going to die because I knew that the people around me knew their job. They were good at their job, and they knew what to do.”

Reffeor doesn’t view his Purple Heart as something of major significance to his life and career, tending to gloss over it.

“I’m pretty fortunate; I know Soldiers who have lost their legs, you know… lost arms,” he said when reflecting on his injury. “My Purple Heart don’t weigh as much as theirs.”

Purple Heart
Sgt. 1st Class Paul M. Dimond received the Purple Heart Medal March 28, 2014, for injuries he sustained from an improvised explosive device which was detonated five meters from him during a graduation ceremony at the Afghan National Army 205th Corps Training Center Dec. 8, 2011. The Purple Heart is one of the oldest commendations in American military history, dating back to the later years of the Revolutionary War and was originally designed as the Badge of Military Merit. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Timothy Koster) VIEW ORIGINAL

When it happened, Reffeor said he didn’t initially realize he was injured and was focused on helping his other squad member who was visibly injured. It only took 45 days from when he sustained the injury before he was back to work, unfazed by the incident.

Reffeor’s squad sustained minimal injuries, and he credited their training for how well they were able to react to the situation.

“Taking care of people is training them through hard training, challenging them, making them be physically fit, so when you actually have to go and do the mission, I get to bring everybody home,” Reffeor said. “That's, in my eyes, what 'people first' means.”

Reffeor didn’t originally envision himself becoming a command sergeant major. He just focused on being the best at whatever job he had, and he advises Soldiers to do the same to get better everyday.

“Just like I always say, just get 1% better each day, and in 365 days, you’ll be 365% better than you were on day one,” said Reffeor.

3rd Infantry Division 2023 Marne Hero Days Division Run
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Reffeor, senior enlisted advisor for the 3rd Infantry Division, high-fives Soldiers as they finish a division run during Marne Hero Days at Fort Stewart, Georgia, July 31, 2023. Marne Hero Days brought together currently-serving Dogface Soldiers, Veterans, family members, and the community to celebrate before the division deploys to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Thompson) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Thompson) VIEW ORIGINAL

Reffeor highlighted that simple, but important, things such as abiding by standards or weapons training can change from repetitive tasks to what’s normal for a Soldier, and lead them to being best at their assigned job. He also advises Soldiers to enjoy life and their time in the Army.

“Best advice I can give anybody is to not let one moment change the outcome of everything,” Reffeor said. “Don't dwell on it and make the best of life.”