By Sgt. Terrance PaytonFebruary 25, 2013
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the president to members of the armed forces who are wounded while serving and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action on or after April 5, 1917.
Sgt. 1st Class Omar Hernandez, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, has received this honor twice over the past 13 years that he has served in the United States Army.
Hernandez was awarded his most recent citation July 2012 for his actions while deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Bn., 505th PIR as they were deployed to assist the International Security Assistance Force.
Hernandez, who suffered two broken legs, was treated and received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor and Purple Heart at the Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Army Airfield.
"We were pinned down in a firefight and I was told my weapons squad leader was down," said Hernandez. "I ran about 25 meters to get to him and as I dragged him behind cover we fell into a 50 foot well, where I shattered both my legs," he explained.
"He is one of the most motivated Soldiers I have ever met in the Army," said Capt. Matthew Weisner, company commander of Co. A, 2nd Bn., 505th PIR. "His willingness to put the mission first, was an inspiration to everybody around him."
When asked if he would do it again knowing the injuries that he suffered Hernandez replied, "I don't know if I would do it again, nobody knows how they will react in any incident. It's just instinct how Soldiers react. Some people have it and some don't."
Hernandez said that he trains his Soldiers to be better than himself. "I train my Soldiers to have the mentality to never quit. It's not about the individual but about the men fighting to your left and your right."
The recently promoted Hernandez, who is from Houston, came to the United States from Mexico with his Family when he was a child. He recalls being 10 years old when his Family finally received their legalization paperwork and became resident aliens.
Hernandez joined the Army Reserves as an engineer and deployed to Iraq for his first tour of duty. Upon his return, he became an active-duty Soldier and returned to Iraq for his second tour, earning his citizenship during that deployment.
"I just wanted to serve a country that has given me so much," said Hernandez. "I felt like this was the least that I can do for a country that has given so much to my Family. My parents were given the opportunity to become homeowners and legal residents of America."
As Hernandez prepares to leave Fort Bragg for Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to continue rehabilitation for his injuries, he said he will be leaving the assignment he always wanted.
"The 82nd was my dream assignment since I came into the Army. My goal was to be an airborne Ranger," Hernandez said. "I checked the block by saying that I was a jumpmaster in the greatest division that the world has ever seen."
"He was passionate about staying in the Army as an infantryman," said Weisner. "He told me that he would give up all the awards for the opportunity to stay in this battalion and continue to lead Soldiers."
Hernandez has also received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his actions while serving with Co. B, 2nd Bn., 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in June 2007. After being shot while on patrol, Hernandez pulled two Iraqi National Police to safety.