purple heart medal

Patrick Meyer was working in construction when the military came calling.

A native of the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, Neb., Meyer hails from a family committed to serving their country — three generations deep — so when he got the call, he put his life on hold.

“It was the best decision I have ever made,” Meyer said.

The first few years after his United States Army enlistment in 1997, Meyer remained stateside, serving as an infantryman in a tactics unit. Then the deployments began — first to Saudi Arabia and Bosnia on peacekeeping missions, then South Korea, and finally two tours to Iraq, all in the span of his 11-year service career.

During his second tour in Iraq, Meyer — now a sergeant — was on patrol and guarding Associated Press reporter Toby Morris when the hit came.

“I was told to stay and monitor three gun trucks in an overwatch position,” Meyer began. “(Morris) got out (of the gun truck) and was stretching his legs. A sniper in a building took a shot and wounded his right femur. I proceeded to drag (him) to cover … then I took a shot in the leg as I was pulling Toby in (the truck). He was then shot in the ankle.”

The reporter’s femur was shattered and his ankle busted, yet despite his own injury, Meyer saved the reporter’s life and was later awarded the Bronze Star in addition to the Purple Heart.

The extent of his injury in Iraq placed Meyer on the temporary disabled retired list and he found himself back home in America, where he eventually returned to the pace of his former life, building homes in Nebraska.

Though his service days were over, they left a lasting mark.

“It was a great experience, with meeting others, and being trained to be successful in my career,” Meyer said. “I would recommend it for people who want to better themselves.”

He added that the relationships he built while serving side-by-side other soldiers were irreplaceable. Despite the hardships, there were also fond memories of their camaraderie, which brought them together as a unit.

“My first unit was called the Polar Bears,” Meyer began. “We were having a battalion fundraiser for a military ball. We decided to do a polar bear plunge in the freezing water. … The temperature of the lake was definitely 30 degrees. We had paramedics with industry-sized dryers and stretchers. Once a few soldiers jumped in the cold lake, they were pulling us out and warming our body temps. We were able to make $20,000.

“Being in the infantry drew a strong relationships with the fellas that you hang out with, train, sweat and bleed with.”

Katy Moore can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.

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