Joshua Hansen was hit by his ninth IED as an Army soldier in Iraq on March 15, 2007 — and it would be his last, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Nine blasts from such improvised explosives frequently used by insurgents in the Middle East left Hansen with traumatic brain injuries — the most frequent injury for modern soldiers — and unable to return to war.
Now, six years later, the 42-year-old father of two was awarded the Bronze Star for “exceptionally meritorious service,” the Tribune reported.
While in Iraq, Hansen served as team leader for the 2nd Platoon, Company A of the U.S. Army’s 321st Engineers, whose job it was to clear travel routes of bombs to allow troops to safely pass.
“By willingly traveling on the most dangerous and IED-laded routes … Sgt. Hansen saved an untold amount of lives and military equipment,” Hansen’s commander, then an Army captain, Eric Coulson, wrote according to the Tribune in his support for the soldier to receive the medal in 2007. Coulson called out Hansen’s “loyalty, honor and personal courage [as keeping] his soldiers’ motivation high and fears low.”
Hansen was officially given the Bronze Star, the fifth highest medal honoring combat service, Tuesday.
“I didn’t serve this country for a medal,” Hansen said, choking up, according to the Tribune. “I served this country for my boys, all the men I served with. For my mother, that wasn’t good enough.”
A few years ago, Hansen spoke with KSL-TV about the eight concussions he received while on duty and what he has had to live with since:
Hansen didn’t notice slowdown until his fifth concussion. He says he would be in the middle of a mission when suddenly he had no idea how he’d gotten there.
“I would tell the platoon sergeant, ‘I’m afraid I’m going to get someone killed,” Hansen said.
“When I had the brain injury I was in a fog, and as it started healing up, over time, the P.T.S.D. started taking over,” he said. “It was a catch-22 for me. I couldn’t win for losing on that one.”
Hansen’s handle on both disorders varies from day to day, but he and his wife agree he’s improved greatly with treatment at the VA. He also attends a weekly TBI support group there, and he’s committed to making sure other soldiers get the treatment they need — he’s taken some to the hospital himself.
Never leave a soldier behind in battle or in the aftermath, Hansen says.
“None of us really understood it ourselves, of how dangerous it ends up being,” he said. “It’s great they’re taking more seriously than in the past.”
Watch KSL’s report:
(H/T: Daily Mail)