Soldier wounded in Afghanistan awarded Purple Heart

December 20, 2011 11:44:10 PM PST
A severely wounded soldier received a special medal Tuesday in honor of all that he sacrificed while fighting in Afghanistan.

It was a bitter sweet moment for Sgt. Brian Jergens. The 23-year-old lost a lot to gain a Purple Heart. Both legs and a finger were amputated, his spleen has been removed, and he suffered severe brain damage after a road side explosion.

"It's an honor but at the same time you really don't want it," Sgt. Ben Stehman said.

Stehman got his own Purple Heart because of what happened that August day.

"I was in the truck with him, so it's a big deal to see him come this far from when it first happened," Stehman said.

Jergens was barely conscious when he arrived at Moffett Field in September. He was quickly transferred to the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital's specialized unit for severe traumatic brain injuries. He's been getting treatment there for the past three months.

Jergens' wife is with him daily.

"It's been hard, I'm not going to say it's easy, but I see people that have it worse than we do and I'm thankful Brian is recovering," Jennifer Jergens said.

The unit treats 80-90 active soldiers every year. And doctors say the types of injuries Jergens suffered are unfortunately common in this war.

"They have terrible injuries to their lower extremities, so often times, just horrible orthopedic injuries or traumatic amputation," Veterans Hospital Unit Supervisor Scott Skiles said.

While progress is slow, the Purple Heart serves a purpose: it's lifting the spirits of a man who thought he'd lost a war and his life.

Jergens' wife says she expects her husband will be discharged from this hospital in the next month or so. After that he'll be transferred to a full-time care facility in California or Colorado.

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