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Fort Cavazos soldier gets Purple Heart 14 years after earning it

Posted at 6:12 PM, May 30, 2024

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas (KXXV) — In 2010 Sergeant First Class James Welch was serving in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked him and several others.

”Having sustained a severe traumatic brain injury,” said Captain Rosalie Bedoya with the 3rd Armored Corps. “Despite his injury, Sergeant First Class Welch regained his bearings and proceeded to check on other service members in his vicinity.”

He was awarded the Combat Action Badge for his heroic actions that day.

The same day he earned the Purple Heart, but his paperwork fell through the cracks.

”Like I said, I don’t blame anyone in particular,” said SFC Welch. “It's just that my original packet with sworn statements was lost and those were reservists that I worked with. Different states, different units, I didn’t have anyone’s point of contact. It just happened to all fall in place.”

Sadly, his story is all too familiar to other Purple Heart recipients.

”This is nothing uncommon,” said Tracey Brown Greene, National Junior Vice Commander, Military Order Of The Purple Heart. “We have a lot of potential recipients that it takes a while. We had a case that it took over 30 years for one person to get two Purple Hearts.”

Some combat injuries are visible but a traumatic brain injury like the one SFC Welch suffered is not, and many service members aren’t willing to report them.

SFC Welch has a message for those service members.

”Don’t be afraid of it,” said SFC Welch. “I'm here retiring after 20 years and I was still able to tell doctors everything and keep everything in record.”