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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Soldier earns 2nd Purple Heart

Spc Skeeter R Tomczak joined an honored class of Soldiers by receiving his second Purple Heart Dec 31 from the 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division Commander Lt. Col. Eddie Frizell while stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait  

"The Colonel told me he never expected to be handing out this award-he expressed how proud he was," said Tomczak

Tomczak, a M2 gunner in the lead Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) truck, was honored for his wounds he received from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonation during a route clearance mission from Victory Base Complex, Iraq to Al Asad, Iraq Oct 5



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"An IED went off on the right side of us," recalls Tomczak "I dropped down in to the vehicle to make sure everyone was ok"

After Tomczak verified that his crew was ok he jumped back up into the turret to engage the individuals who set off the IED

"I was trying to find them through my thermal scope, but it wasn't working," said Tomczak

Half of the scope was blown off during the IED explosion 

At that moment Tomczak noticed a sharp pain in his elbow and dropped back down into the vehicle After further inspection by his Truck Commander (TC), Sgt Cade Gornick, Tomczak had come to the realization that he had taken shrapnel in his arm from the blast

Pvt Jason Gates, sitting in the back of the MRAP, rendered aid to Tomczak's arm, which temporarily stopped the bleeding until a medic was able to tend to his wounds  

"Gates patched up Tomczak and then jumped on the gun, so we could continue on the mission," said Gornick

Searching for Improvised Explosive Devices IEDs is not out of the normal for Tomczak as this is the second Purple Heart he has received

The first Purple Heart was awarded to him on the brigade's 22-month deployment to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in February 2007 after an IED exploded next to the Humvee while on a short haul convoy from Logistical Support Area Anaconda, Iraq to Forward Operating Base Spiker, Iraq 

"The first IED I went through was by far the worse because it was the first," said Tomczak "After going through an event like that it changes you; I know there are Soldiers who have never gone through the experiences I have and I am thankful for that"

When asked about what he was most thankful for after his second IED Tomczak simply replied, "I'm glad it happened to me and not somebody else"

Although Tomczak is thankful most Soldiers have not experienced what he has, Gornick was working side by side with Tomczak in the same truck when both IEDs went off Gornick was the driver of the Humvee during the last deployment and is now the TC of Tomczak's MRAP during this deployment

"We are the luckiest unlucky people you will ever meet," Gornick exclaimed "I knew the day they paired us up on this deployment we were going to get blown up again"

Despite everything they've been through, Gornick was still able to say with a smile on his face, "I am very proud of Tomczak"

After taking a few moments to reflect on his ceremony Tomczak said, "if you look back at the people who have two Purple Hearts you can't help, but have the utmost respect for them and to find myself now in that category it's a real honor"

31 Dec, 2011
Spc Mathew Schlueter
1-94 Cavalry, 1/34 BCT




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