MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members, and on Sunday, February 8th, a Wisconsin soldier was honored.
Army National Guard Specialist Alexander Zerbst of Oconomowoc was deployed to Iraq in 2007 -- where he worked as a wrecker operator -- driving a HEMMT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck). His mission was to offer support convoy and escort goods to different areas of the country for distribution.
On October 9th, 2007, his vehicle was attacked by an improvised explosive device, or IED.
"My instinct was put the foot to the floor and keep moving. Don`t stop. The other person -- his instinct was to see and assess what was going on," Zerbst said.
Zerbst survived, but he was wounded.
"I ended up getting what`s called a TBI, which is similar to a concussion but it`s a little bit more involved and I also have some hearing loss on one side that`s permanent," Zerbst said.
On Sunday, surrounded by friends, family members and fellow soldiers, Zerbst was honored with a Purple Heart.
"It`s important to recognize each and every one of our soldiers who exhibit such valor in defending our country over these last number of years since September 11th," Major General Don Dunbar, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard said.
The Purple Heart is a combat decoration awarded to members of the military who are wounded by an instrument of war.
"It`s amazing that he actually got recognized for this. I am speechless because there`s no words that can describe how amazing it is that he was recognized for his hard work," Zerbst's wife, Sarah Zerbst said.
"It is a great honor. It's kind of overwhelming to think of the fact that others that have gotten this similar award are in a lot worse situations," Zerbst said.
The Purple Heart is traditionally awarded for combat wounds. Zerbst suffered a traumatic brain injury, which wasn't considered a combat wound. After eight years and a lot of paperwork, Zerbst has now been recognized.