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Utah soldier receives Purple Heart

(Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)


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BLUFFDALE — It took three years, but a Utah soldier finally received his Purple Heart medal during a ceremony Saturday morning.

Jose Artalejo was injured when a bomb exploded under his vehicle in Afghanistan. Even with all the clapping, hugs and nice things said about him at his medal ceremony, Artalejo is just happy to be alive.

“It was a pretty rough deployment," he said.

Artalejo and his entire 118th Engineer Company with Utah's Army National Guard were in Afghanistan doing bomb clearance missions when one went off.

He suffered a concussion and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

“It's kind of blurry, but I remember it,” Artalejo said. “It's something you don't forget."

And it's something his commanders never forgot. So Saturday morning at Camp Williams, in front of friends, family and fellow soldiers, Artalejo was awarded a Purple Heart.

"He had a very difficult job over there and served phenomenally," said Capt. Blake Bingham, former commander of the 118th Engineer Company.

Bingham was there, too, when the bomb exploded.

"(The bomb) detonated under his vehicle and gave him (Artalejo) a concussion,” he said. “It was actually on Christmas Eve."

Whitney Artalejo, Jose's wife, remembers the call she received during the holidays. Now, when Christmas rolls around, they choose to enjoy their time together.

"You just try to move forward with that and celebrate it for our kids and stuff like that, rather than try to dwell on what happened," Whitney Artalejo said.

Being awarded a Purple Heart is a high honor, but it's an honor that's awkward to congratulate because it means a soldier was injured.

Instead, maybe it's just best to say thank you.

"It was really just a group effort,” Jose Artalejo said. “Everybody worked hard, did their job, and we all looked out for each other."

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Alex Cabrero

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