News: Arizona Guard member receives Purple Heart, commemorates day with family
Story by Cpl. Barbara J. Liau
PHOENIX - Capt. Michael W. Potter, the executive officer of the Medical Hold Detachment, was awarded the Purple Heart, presented by Maj. Gen. Hugo E. Salazar, the adjutant general for the Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation, Sept. 8.
The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the world presently in use, which is a combat decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who were wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.
Potter received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained while deployed to Iraq with the 259th Engineer Company in 2007. He was on a combat logistics patrol when an improvised explosive device detonated next to his gun truck; the impact of the explosion left him with a traumatic brain injury that he is still dealing with today.
“I see this award as more of a symbol. A symbol of what I’ve been through, but more importantly a symbol of what my family has been through, and what we have to deal with everyday and into the future,” Potter said. “Just because somebody comes back and they have all their fingers, their toes, no extra holes, doesn’t mean they’re not feeling something.”
Although the injury has limited what Potter can do in the military, he hasn’t let that stop him from moving on with life and continue doing his job.
“Despite the injuries, he does not take that as a setback,” said Maj. Margaret E. Bielenberg, the surface maintenance manager for the Arizona National Guard and Potter’s work supervisor. “He is my go-to guy for everything. He’s a completely reliable employee and I can’t imagine doing the job without him.”
Bielenberg also spoke about the example of true resiliency Potter sets for those around him.
“He’s a great example to soldiers,” she said. “Showing them you can take setbacks, and still keep going forward and use that as a chance to grow.”
In his acceptance remarks, Potter encouraged soldiers to help each other use the tools provided by the military to get help if they are struggling with any type of injury.
“Just because we’re back on American soil doesn’t mean we have to stop looking out for our buddies,” he said. “If you see somebody struggling, encourage them to get the help they need.”
Although Potter has sustained a lifelong injury from his deployment, he still finds it to be a noble opportunity to be a Purple Heart recipient.
“It truly is an honor to receive such a historical award and be grouped with a class of soldiers who have received the Purple Heart—specifically those who served in Vietnam, World War I and World War II—and had to sacrifice and deal with more than I did,” Potter said.