Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New VA Secretary presents Bronze Star, Purple Heart to wounded hero

By Lori Newman

Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald presented Staff Sgt. Steven Tessitore the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart medal during a ceremony Dec. 19 at the Center for the Intrepid.

Brooke Army Medical Center Commander Col. Evan Renz hosted the ceremony, with Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also in attendance.

“It is heartwarming to see your family here today,” said McDonald who met with Tessitore and his family prior to the ceremony.

“Our nation is indebted to you and we are also indebted to your family as well.”

Tessitore, an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, suffered a gunshot wound Nov. 15 while on a Quick Reaction Force in Afghanistan.

McDonald said he read Tessitore’s personal account of being wounded and the days that followed.

“He was shot in the throat, gravely wounded, and he received what he described as ‘the luckiest’ lethal wound,” McDonald said.

“By Nov. 19 he was communicating with friends, family and fellow Soldiers in Afghanistan. Apart from what that says about technology, think about what it says about our Soldiers -- about their focus, their fortitude and their skill in life-saving first aid in the direst of circumstance,” the secretary said.

“Think what it says about all the surgeons, doctors, nurses and support staff who attended to Sgt. Tessitore from the dirty, dusty streets of a faraway land to the pristine Brooke Army Medical Center.”

McDonald thanked Tessitore for his service and sacrifice, and promised that when it was time, the VA will be honored to care for him and his family, and “will provide all the services and benefits he has so richly earned.”

Tessitore received the Bronze Star for “his outstanding performance, expertise and dedication to duty which greatly contributed to the success of the unit’s mission during combat operations.”

The Bronze Star medal is the fourth highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by order of precedence in the U.S. military. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit or meritorious service in a combat zone.

The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration in present use and the first American award made available to the common Soldier. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hand of the enemy.

“Nobody in their right mind wants a Purple Heart, and I find myself receiving one today against everything that I have ever wanted, but I appreciate it,” Tessitore said. “The only reason I am here today to receive this medal is because of my unit and how well they prepared, so on behalf of Bravo Company 2-162 and my entire battalion, thank you very much for taking care of me and for allowing me to be here today.”

Following the ceremony McDonald and Winnefeld spoke with amputees about their care and toured the CFI and BAMC.