ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A Minnesota veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq now has a Purple Heart. In the past, this type of injury would not have qualified him for that honor but things have changed.
Sgt. Eric Phinney served with the Red Bulls in Iraq — serving one of the longest deployments of any unit during that time. On Thursday, he received a Purple Heart.
Phinney suffered a traumatic brain injury after an IED blew up near a convoy he was in — yet he and other soldiers continued on to help other soldiers who were in jeopardy.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave Phinney his award while his wife Jennifer, who’s in the National Guard, and their daughter, Taylor, watched from the crowd.
Sgt. Phinney is from Maple Grove, lives in Monticello and helped complete 300 missions with the Red Bulls during his deployment. He humbly accepted the award and praised the men and women who served with him.
“It’s nice,” he said. “But the recognition needs to go to the other 16 members of our team — and there’s four or five here today. But it was an amazing run and we did a lot of missions. You know, they need it just as much as anyone else.”
When Phinney was hurt, brain injuries didn’t qualify for the Purple Heart but since then, the Department of Defense has changed its policies. Sen. Klobuchar worked closely with the department to ensure he received a Purple Heart.
She said there could be others who now qualify for the honor — including those who may not know they do.