|Oregon Guardsman receives Purple Heart for wounds received in 2005
The prevailing opinion at Staff Sgt. Tim McCrary's Purple Heart ceremony at Camp Withycombe on Sept. 13, 2007 was that the award was well deserved. But the comments were quickly followed with, "and a long time coming".
Because of lost paperwork, and delays by the Army, McCrary's Purple Heart citation wasn't processed until recently – even though he sustained injuries over two years ago.
"It's just one of those things, I guess," McCrary said, as his family stood around him in the cavernous space of the Withycombe Armory in Clackamas, Ore.
McCrary, was wounded on Aug. 31, 2005, by an improvised explosive device while on patrol just south of Kirkuk, Iraq. He was deployed with G-Troop, 116 Brigade Combat Team, as a gunner on the commander's vehicle.
While on patrol, an IED detonated near the convoy, sending a large piece of shrapnel through the window and under McCrary's body armor. The two-inch piece of steel lodged near his spine in his lower back, breaking off pieces of several vertebrae in the process. McCrary then reached into his pocket and brought out the chunk of metal doctors removed.
"I'm fortunate to be alive and walking," McCrary said as he rolled the piece of shrapnel over in his right hand.
McCrary said he was taken via MEDEVAC to a hospital at the Forward Operating Base in Iraq, where they prepped him for surgery. A medical technician there asked him if there was anyone he wanted to call before being sedated. He said sure – he called his wife Nancy who was at the couple's home in Beavercreek, Ore.
"My heart stopped," she said. "The first thing out of his mouth was that he needed me to sit down and I knew something was wrong."
Both McCrary and his wife believed that phone call, though stressful, gave the family time to prepare for the stress of his treatment, recovery, and eventual homecoming.
"I was lucky that my wife didn't have to find out with a knock on the door or a phone call in the middle of the night," McCrary added.
McCrary, who has been in the military since 1996, originally joined the U.S. Navy in 1974, serving aboard a submarine. He took a 20-year break in service before joining the Oregon Army National Guard at age 39 – one year before the Army's age limit for new recruits.
McCrary said he is currently working with the Veteran's Administration and the Army's Medical Discharge Board to transition out of the military one last time. Though he said he has trouble bending over and walking or standing for long periods of time, his goal is to return to work as a traffic signal technician with the City of Beaverton.
"They've been calling me a lot asking me when I'm going to come back," he said with a smile.
Aside from the Purple Heart, McCrary received the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and the Oregon Faithful Service Award. Brig. Gen. Charles Yriarte, Commander of the Oregon Army National Guard's 82 Brigade Troop Command, presided over the ceremony, and pinned the medals on McCrary's uniform, before a gathering of about 100 friends, family and coworkers.
"This is the first time I've gotten medals," McCrary said. "It's pretty neat. There's no better country to live in (than America), so it's worth it…every drop of blood is worth it."
McCrary said he was grateful for the support his unit received while on deployment, and thanked those who sent supplies and care packages. He also stressed the importance of Soldiers seeking proper medical treatment during demobilization, warning about the pitfall of rushing through the demob process in order to get back to waiting families as quickly as possible.
"The longer they're in demob, the longer they're away from their families," McCrary said. "So a lot of guys don't tell the medical people that there's something wrong with them, and then they have to deal with it later."
"Don't do that," he warned. "It may take a little longer, but you have to get (your injuries) documented, because that's the best way to get (them) taken care of."
070920-F-1639C-007.JPG: Brig. Gen. Charles Yriarte, Commander of the Oregon Army National Guard's 82 Brigade Troop Command, awards Staff Sgt. Tim L. McCrary the Purple Heart, during a ceremony on Sept. 20, 2007 at Camp Withycombe, in Clackamas, Ore. McCrary received the award for wounds sustained during an attack on his convoy while on patrol near Kirkuk, Iraq on Aug. 31, 2005. Because of lost paperwork and delays, the applications for the award were resubmitted three times, McCrary said. McCrary was deployed to Iraq for one year with the Oregon Army National Guard's G-Troop, 116th Brigade Combat Team. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office).
070920-F-1639C-041.JPG: Staff Sgt. Tim L. McCrary shows off a two-inch chunk of metal which was removed from his lower back, caused by an IED attack on his convoy on Aug. 31, 2005. McCrary was awarded the Purple Heart during a ceremony on Sept. 20, 2007 at Camp Withycombe, in Clackamas, Ore. Because of lost paperwork and delays, the applications for the award were resubmitted three times, McCrary said. McCrary was deployed to Iraq for one year with the Oregon Army National Guard's G-Troop, 116th Brigade Combat Team. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office).
Kay Fristad: 503-584-3917
Major Mike Braibish: 503-584-3886
Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy: 503-784-9295