Five years after his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Iraq, retired Staff Sgt. Kevin Critzon received the Purple Heart during an intimate ceremony held on June 29 at Moon Hall for injuries suffered in his 2007 Iraq deployment.
While conducting convoy security at checkpoint 17A on Main Supply Route Tampa, between Tallil Airbase and Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Sept. 4, 2007, Critzon’s vehicle was struck by an IED after the lead vehicle of the convoy was hit with an explosively formed projectile. According to Critzon’s unit’s standard operating procedures, the second vehicle (his), was to go around the downed vehicle and provide security as the rear vehicle provided security in the back. As Critzon’s vehicle passed the downed vehicle, they were hit with a secondary IED.
After initial impact and recovering from initial shock, Critzon rushed to the lead vehicle and pulled the driver out. He began to take the injured Soldier to his vehicle when he remembered it had been destroyed during the blast. Critzon called in a medical evacuation request, only to find out it would take about an hour to get the helicopter to their location. He decided to drive the injured Soldier to the closest field-operating base with a hospital about five kilometers away.
After the Soldier was taken to the hospital, Critzon returned to the down vehicles and waited for the recovery team to arrive. Around 72 hours later, after the mission was complete, Critzon finally received treatment. He was given pain medication and returned to duty. It wasn’t until his unit, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, returned home in July 2008, that Critzon was notified of his traumatic brain injury during a procedure medical screening. He also suffered permanent hearing loss.
“I had twenty five Soldiers over there, I wasn’t hurt. I had to stay with them,” said Critzon. “I was even the last Soldier to take R and R (rest and relaxation) after the (event).
It really is an honor to be a recipient of the Purple Heart,” Critzon continued. “This isn’t something you train for. I was doing my job and I had a great time in the service.”
Critzon was medically retired on July 8, 2011. The soft spoken, humbled, veteran’s plans for the future are simple; to take care of his two daughters, ages 8 and 1, and his wife.