U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Bluhm presented Purple Heartby jmaloni
Bluhm served in Afghanistan
In a formal ceremony at the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial in Hyde Park Monday, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Bluhm was presented with the Purple Heart military service medal awarded for wounds sustained in action while serving in Afghanistan.
"Staff Sgt. Bluhm has made great sacrifices through his service, and we, as a nation, are eternally grateful," said Congressman Brian Higgins.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster added, "There can be no 'statute of limitations' when it comes to recognizing the heroic service of servicemen like Andrew Bluhm. His selflessness and perseverance under adversity is a model for future generations."
Following his graduation from Medina High School in 2006, Bluhm enlisted in the Army, where he was assigned to Company B, 1st Squadron, 91st Calvary Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
During Operation Enduring Freedom, the 173rd was tasked with suppressing the Taliban and maintaining security along the rugged Afghanistan border. During his deployment, on July 27, 2007, Bluhm's company was ambushed. Under heavy fire, his troop suffered heavy casualties, including the front-line leadership with both the squad leader and team leader wounded. Bluhm was acting as the gunner when his truck was hit multiple times by rocket-propelled grenades knocking him unconscious. Still, Bluhm carried on and did not seek immediate treatment.
On his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, alert supervisors recognized signs of traumatic brain injury, and ordered Bluhm to be medevac'd to Water Reed National Military Medical Center. There, doctors noted a burn scar on the top of his forehead from the 2007 blast and confirmed the TBI diagnosis. Bluhm underwent nine months of rehab and treatment. He was honorably discharged in April 2013, earning multiple decorations, including the Bronze Star with Valor.
He returned home to Niagara Falls, but was never formally presented with the Purple Heart for his injuries.
The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who have been injured or killed due to hostile actions while serving with the U.S. Armed Services. Gen. George Washington established the original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, in 1782.
Higgins, Dyster, members of the military and the Veterans of Foreign War came together to formally present Bluhm with the Purple Heart he earned seven years ago.
Michael Lopez, an advocate for the Army's Wounded Warrior Program stationed out of Fort Drum, said, "Through the fog of battle and unit reorganization, he was never put in for the award when he should have been. The Army Wounded Warrior Program was happy to assist him in getting the Purple Heart award, which he earned in combat."
Today, Bluhm resides in the Town of Grand Island, where he is a proud member of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9249.