Kentucky Guardsman receives Purple Heart for service in Afghanistan

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Lt. Col. Doug Clay pins the Purple Heart medal to the uniform of Staff Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth during a ceremony in Cynthiana, Ky., July 12, 2014. Wiglesworth was injured when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

CYNTHIANA, Ky. — In January, 2009, Soldiers with Charlie Company, 201st Engineer Battalion were conducting route clearance patrols in eastern Afghanistan. Along Main Supply Route Alaska, truck Charlie 11 struck an improvised explosive device.

During a ceremony in Cynthiana, July 12, Staff Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth received the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained during the attack.

“This is a great feeling, I’m very honored first of all. I’m humbled and extremely proud to give my all in service to my country,” he said.

Click here to see more photos from the ceremony.

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Staff Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth, flanked by his wife and children, speaks to members of the 149th Vertical Construction Company after receiving the Purple Heart during a ceremony in Cynthiana, Ky., July 12, 2014. Wiglesworth thanked his family for their support through his two deployments including the one in 2009 where he was injured in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Wiglesworth was one of five Soldiers riding in the truck when it was hit. Both he and Spc. Todd Phillips were medically evacuated to Forward Operating Base Salerno and treated for their injuries.

Staff Sgt. Randy Morris was the truck’s commander on the mission and still serves with Wigelesworth, now with the 149th Vertical Construction Company. Morris said as the lead truck during missions, their vehicle was the first to encounter anything in the roads.

The deployment was a rough one for the engineers Morris recalled, as they were in Afghanistan during a surge of violence that saw a large increase in enemy activity and IED attacks.  He said there a few Soldiers left in the unit from that deployment and that the award is good for the younger Soldiers to see, especially such a good leader like Wiglesworth.

“This is a great thing today for our unit, I’m really proud of him,” said Morris. “He’s a really good guy. No one deserves to get blown up, but I mean he definitely deserves this award.”

“It’s not that we think it’s funny, but we talk about it now and can bring a smile to our face,  because we know we did the right thing and we did our job the right way so we all could come home.”

Wiglesworth agreed that the incident is not something they should think about all the time, but is glad to still have the same friends and Soldiers around him today.

“We reflect back on that day pretty often and we are extremely fortunate,” said Wiglesworth. “Our vehicle was blown in two, and we had injuries, but minor injuries. I guess the grace of God was with us that day.”

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Lt. Col. Doug Clay, commander of the 201st Engineer Battalion presents Staff Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth with the Purple Heart during a ceremony in Cynthiana, Ky., July 12, 2014. Clay called Wiglesworth an overall great person, Soldier and leader who embodies the Army Value of selfless service. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Lt. Col. Doug Clay, battalion commander of the 201st was on hand to present the award and called Wiglesworth a great overall person, Soldier and leader.

“It’s not everyday you get to award someone a Purple Heart,” he said. “This is such a proud organization here, a great company. One that’s just getting back from another deployment to Afghanistan, so that tells you something about him and his family. They embody the selfless service we always talk about.”

Wiglesworth has served in the Kentucky National Guard for seven years, all with the engineer battalion. He was previously an intelligence analyst for the active-duty Army from 1988-1994.

“I joined the National Guard in 2007 when I heard my hometown unit had been identified for deployment,” he said. “Even after a 13-year break in service, I felt as though I still had something to offer the military.”

Wiglesworth was awarded the Bronze Star and three Army Achievement Medals from the 149th’s recent deployment. He has lived in Cynthiana all his life outside his military service and is a lieutenant in the Cynthiana Fire Department.

Soldiers of the 201st deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008. Before they returned home in 2009, they were credited with disposing of more than 200,000 land mines and IEDs.  For their hard work and sacrifice, the 201st was awarded the Valorous Unit Award and the first Governor’s Outstanding Unit Citation.

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