84th Engineer receives Purple Heart, then re-enlists; plans to attend ROTC

| May 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

Capt. Susan Knapik
84th Engineer Battalion Public Affairs, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command

Maj. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commanding general, U.S. Army-Hawaii and 8th Theater Sustainment Command, congratulates Spc. Noe Soltero, 84th Engineer Battalion, on being awarded the Purple Heart during an award ceremony at the Sgt. Smith Theater, Schofield Barracks, May 19. (Sgt. 1st Class David Wheeler | 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs)SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — It was a seemingly routine day to go on a routine mission in Iraq, but as most Soldiers will say, any day spent “outside the wire” can go from routine to dangerous in an instant. 

Spc. Noe Soltero, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, remembers that day — May 25, 2009 — when the vehicle he was driving was struck by an improvised explosive device, or IED, in similar fashion. 

The attack left him temporarily paralyzed, but it did not quell his indomitable spirit.

Nearly one year after the incident, May 19, Soltero was presented with the Purple Heart by Maj. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commanding general, U.S. Army-Hawaii and 8th TSC, during an award ceremony at Sgt. Smith Theater, here.

Immediately following the ceremony, Terry re-enlisted the wounded warrior for three more years. 

Soltero said he still suffers pain from the attack, and is unable to take an Army Physical Fitness Test, but is learning to manage the discomfort. He said he re-enlisted in order to fully rehabilitate himself, and added that he hoped to eventually enroll in ROTC and commission as an officer. 

When asked if he had any advice for Soldiers struggling through a similar situation, he said, “Dwelling on pain is not going to get you any better. Think of the bad and the good (of the situation); think of where you are and where you want to be. Then, continue on.” 

In recalling the attack, Soltero explained that he was a part of the Personal Security Detail for the 84th Eng. Bn. commander, and was tasked to drive the commander from Contingency Operating Site Marez to Contingency Operating Base Speicher for the 561st Eng. Company’s change of command ceremony. 

The convoy was heading back to COS Marez around midnight when the commute was interrupted by what Soltero called a “giant, bright flash.” 

He attempted to bring the vehicle to a stop safely, but quickly realized the braking system was disabled. In the few seconds after the blast, the gunner was pulled inside the vehicle before the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle went into a roll. 

When the vehicle came to rest, Soltero was pinned in the driver’s seat by the seat belt. The interior alarms and fire suppression system were engaged, and Soltero’s two immediate concerns were, “Is the gunner safe?” and, “Is the battalion commander safe?” 

Wanting to free himself to assess the situation, Soltero cut his safety belt, but could not move from the wreckage. His left side, unfortunately, was paralyzed. 

He was pulled to safety by another passenger, and within moments was loaded into the designated medical evacuation vehicle by the battalion executive officer, then Maj. Don Ollar. 

Soltero was eventually transported through Germany and then to Tripler Army Medical Center, where doctors told him he suffered from temporary paralysis and herniated discs in his lower back. The prognosis was that he would be able to walk normally within six months to a year. 

Furious with such a bleak prognosis, Soltero became focused on his recovery. Determined to beat the odds, Soltero regained feeling in his left side after just two weeks. Six weeks later, he began walking with a cane. 

Soltero was then attached to the Warrior Transition Battalion for three months and rejoined the 643rd Eng. Co. in December 2009, a month after the battalion’s redeployment to Hawaii.

Category: News

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