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NEWS | June 13, 2014

Love for the Army: Eustis Soldier reflects after receiving Purple Heart

By Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

On May 30, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brandan Beiermann, 210th Aviation Regiment, 2nd Battalion, B Company Black Hawk instructor, received a Purple Heart at Fort Eustis after suffering a traumatic brain injury and burns while deployed to Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2012.

The night of his injury will stick with Beiermann for the rest of his life.

"I was just walking to the dining facility to grab some dinner and the attack alarms started sounding off, like they had plenty of times during my second deployment," Beiermann said. "They teach us to just get down right where you are, but from my experience, I knew to at least find some sort of protection."

Beiermann looked around and found steel storage shipping containers and decided that was the best he was going to get for protection - a decision that helped save his life. He heard a loud whistle and saw a flash of light, then found himself thrown through the air to land about 10 feet away. A white phosphorus attack agent hit about five meters from Beiermann's position.

"Once I figured out what happened, I could feel a pain in my hip from where my radio was placed," said Beiermann. "Then my hand felt like it was on fire. I looked down and saw a piece of the phosphor on my hand, so I took out my knife and scraped it off."

White phosphorus burns quickly and will ignite objects such as cloth, fuel and ammunition. A fellow Soldier saw Beiermann get hit, and ran over to assist.

"I started correcting the Soldier that came over to me for being out of his bunker during the attack," said Beiermann.

"But the Soldier had to let me know that I was hit and needed help. I tried to stand up, but I fell over, so another Soldier came over to assist me back to a bunker."

Beiermann had more than just the phosphorus on his hand; it hit his leg, shoulder and eye protection.

"I got lucky by where the attack hit," said Beiermann. "It just made a ring of fire around me."

After everything settled, Beiermann got examined after showing signs of being dazed, confused and slurring his speech. He was diagnosed with a concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury. After getting his diagnosis, Beiermann was offered the option to return home early. He declined.

"I didn't want to leave my Soldiers behind," said Beiermann. "It's my job to take care of my Soldiers, to make sure they are living, breathing and going home to their families."

Beiermann called his wife the night of the accident; she knew right away there was something wrong.

"She told me I was talking funny," said Beiermann. "So I told her what happened, and she encouraged me to continue to get checked out by doctors. She was a little worried."

Beiermann finished out the final portion of his deployment with his fellow Soldiers, but he knew the journey ahead was going to be difficult.

"I had awful headaches, hearing loss in my left ear and a scar on my left hand. The symptoms lasted over a year." said Beiermann. "But overall I can't complain; it could have been worse."

Once home, Beiermann went to the Fort Bragg, North Carolina Traumatic Brain Injury clinic. As a patient he was able to work on memory issues and irritability.

"I have pieces of my memory that I just can't recall," said Beiermann. "I will probably never get them back either."

Beiermann was medically cleared after completing the clinic program and is now going to school and working on progressing his Army career.

When Beiermann found out he would receive the Purple Heart, he didn't want the presentation to be a big deal.

"I wanted it to just be sent to my home address; I wasn't looking for anything flashy," he said. "But my command decided to hold a ceremony for me. My wife and son were in attendance, as well as most of my brigade. "My son loved the ceremony; he loves everything about the Army."

Beiermann took this event as a learning experience and something to tell other Soldiers as they grow in their careers.

"I always warn them about indirect fire and to get down," he said. "If you hear the alarm, just make sure you protect yourself." Ultimately, he did not want his injury to hinder him, he said.

"I love the Army - I love the service," said Beiermann. "If it was needed I would deploy again tomorrow. This is what I joined to do."