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Prospect soldier earns Purple Heart

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By Laura Hagan

Mark Mann said he has never heard of anyone who stepped on an improvised explosive device and lived to tell about it, until he spoke to his son. Mark’s son is currently serving in Iraq and will return from his deployment in July with a Purple Heart.Michael, the son of Mark and Pam Mann of Prospect, survived the explosion of an IED April 19 and escaped with minor injuries.On that day, Michael led a rifle platoon ordered to find a group of men believed to be making bombs at a specific location in a rural area.When Michael’s platoon reached the house, some stayed behind to guard the vehicles while Michael and others entered the house. As he walked toward the door, Michael stepped on an IED. His father said he told him “the next thing he knew, he was lying on his back.”The medic in Michael’s platoon asked him if he could walk. When Michael tried, he fell. Mark said his son had minor shrapnel wounds to his legs, but no other severe injuries. Hot sand had blown up into his face, but goggles and body armor Michael was wearing protected him.“He said his ears rang for a day or two,” Mark said.Michael completed his mission that day, and Mark said he told him they “wouldn’t have to worry about those guys building bombs anymore.”Mark was surprised to hear that his son wasn’t seriously wounded from the device.Michael spent the rest of the day at an aid station and was ordered two days’ rest. Then he was back to his men, and back on patrol, his father said. He was awarded the Purple Heart.The Purple Heart is awarded to military personnel who have been wounded or killed while serving. This includes any injury caused by enemy actions and/or weapons.“I’m just real proud of him,” Mark said. “Someone that’s not even 23 years old, (who is in) a position of leadership, and would do all that.”He said he hasn’t really seen a change in his son since he has been in Iraq, but his family doesn’t get much of a chance to talk to him. They have only talked to him on the phone twice since he was wounded.“We could tell he was okay when he would make lighthearted jokes,” he said. “When we could see his sense of humor, we knew he was fine.”Michael grew up in Prospect, attending Goshen Elementary, North Oldham Middle and South Oldham High School. He graduated from SOHS in 2003. During his physics class at South Oldham, Michael talked to retired Col. Paul Peterson – his teacher – about being a career officer in the U.S. Army.Michael went to Virginia Tech and studied history and military leadership. He was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and Army ROTC.Michael graduated from college in May 2007 and was commissioned into the Army. He spent a week at home and then went to Ft. Sill, Okla., for training as a field artillery officer. He came home again for a few days near Christmas, and then went to Ft. Stewart, Ga.Michael was deployed to Iraq in January and is expected to return in July. Mark said Michael’s deployment has been hard on his mother, and that his younger brother, Brian, worries about him just as much as his parents do.Students in Ms. Pittenger’s kindergarten class at Goshen Elementary sent letters of encouragement to Michael’s platoon.Mark said his son has had varying duties during his time spent in Iraq. He has also had a lot of interaction with the local Iraqis. Mark said Michael told him of his conversations with some of the locals about needing to send the young Iraqi girls to school. When he was told Al-Qaeda wouldn’t let them, Michael told them to send the girls to school anyway, and that he would worry about Al-Qaeda.“That’s part of what they’re doing over there,” Mark said.Mark said it wasn’t a surprise when Michael was deployed; they knew it would happen. Michael told his parents he was requesting to go to Iraq.“He’s worked a long time (to do this),” Mark said.In addition to military training, Michael also participated in competitive rifle shooting and cross country running.When he returns home in July, Michael will have 30 days of leave. Right now, Mark said, his son is busy packing up and preparing for replacements. And though he’s about to come home, Mark said his son is already planning on going back for another tour of Iraq.“That’s what they do,” he said.

E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com.